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Gov't must address longevity now, Greengross warns

Gov't must address longevity now, Greengross warns
 Photo: ILC

The UK government must address issues of demographic change and the health needs that come with increasing longevity, Baroness Greengross has warned.

In her House of Lords debate on the Queen's Speech, the chief executive of the International Longevity Centre UK, called on the government to ensure education and lifelong learning was prioritised.

She also demanded the government provides clarity over its commitment to support people to live an extra five healthy independent years by 2035.

She said: "What was] not mentioned in the speech was the government’s manifesto commitment to support people to live five extra healthy and independent years of life by 2035.

"Does the government still stand by that commitment? As already alluded to in my comments on dementia research, prevention and early action can play a crucial role in delivering the vision of a healthier nation, as set out in the Queen’s Speech.

"Here, I declare my interest as chief executive of the ILC, whose 2020 paper found that time spent living with largely preventable health conditions is set to increase by 17 per cent over the next 25 years, unless the government moves upstream and invest in preventive health interventions."

According to the Office for National Statistics data in 2019, cohort life expectancy at birth in the UK is projected to increase by 2.8 years to reach 90.4 years for boys and by 2.4 years to 92.6 years for girls born in 2043.

This signals a huge spike in longevity from today's average of 80 years for a man and 83.4 for a woman.

She also asked government to set out clear plans for the future of adult social care, highlighting it is now a decade since the Dilnot Commission on long-term care came out with its report in 2011, and still very little has been done to improve care provision and care funding in the UK.

Lady Greengross said: "Ten years on from the Dilnot report, the Queen’s Speech once again offered only general commitments to social care reform, without giving any detail.

"Part of the social care reform debate must consider the importance of prevention in healthcare, including dementia prevention, to reduce future pressure on the social care sector and to address the increased suffering of many thousands of people."

During the Queen's Speech, Her Majesty said: "My Ministers will bring forward legislation to empower the NHS to innovate and embrace technology.

"Patients will receive more tailored and preventative care, closer to home [Health and Care Bill].'

Other commentators have questioned the government's lack of detail on care. 

Baroness Ros Altmann, former pensions minister and now independent commentator, called it a 'missed opportunity', adding: "Social care must be properly integrated and funded, with parity of esteem alongside the NHS, to treat those with care needs with the dignity they deserve."