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By Kevin White | Published Jun 07, 2012

UK lagging behind Europe in long-term care

Speaking at an Axa International conference, held last week near Bordeaux, Adelina Comas-Herrera, research fellow at the LSE, outlined research into ageing trends across the European Union.

Ms Comas-Herrera said a key challenge came with populations becoming more susceptible to chronic conditions such as dementia, with one in three people expected to need some sort of long-term care - usually at the end of their life.

She said: “Improvements in medicine could be seen as a double-edged sword.

“More people live through heart attacks and other once-fatal illnesses, but some of these people then develop conditions such as dementia 20 years later.

“Most long-term care models have evolved gradually, with the formal sector expanding to fill in the gaps left by informal care. Some countries, particularly in Scandinavia, have absorbed LTC as part of their relatively generous tax-funded welfare state, while others, including the Netherlands, Japan and Germany have created social insurance systems (with some tax-funded elements).”

But while other countries were pressing ahead with their preparations on an issue which could potentially have a huge financial effect, Ms Comas-Herrera expressed fears that the UK was lagging behind its European neighbours.

She added: “We have a dithering system in the UK, and have still not delivered any reform. We do not yet know the rules of the game in the UK. LTC insurance is a very small market in aimed at the wealthy, unlike in other markets where there are several different models in use and the offering is much more developed.

“The current system is unsustainable and can leave someone with nothing to pass on. It needs reform, muddling through is not enough.”

Philippa Gee, managing director of Shropshire-based Philippa Gee Wealth Management, said: “I think people are aware of the issues but the problem is there is nothing suitable to consider - with just one product on the market.

“It needs a lot of refining, more products with more transparency, flexibility and competitive charging. The findings from the Dilnot Report called for this, but any action keeps being pushed back.

“Providers in this country are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t look at creating products.

“Especially if we have legislation that means they have to change their propositions.

“I think it needs to start at the political level first to push this reform through.”

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