Labour’s election co-ordinator Alan Milburn must be having a bad
week. All his careful wooing of the powerful “grey vote” has been
abruptly undone with a series of damning – or just plain
unfortunate – revelations.
To begin, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence
withdrew its support for three major dementia drugs, apparently on
the basis of cost. Dementia is a horrifyingly cruel disease, both
for sufferers and their carers.
The institute’s suggestion that £2.50 a day – about
£1,000 a year – is too much to spend to give victims an extra
six to nine months of cognitive function has proved upsetting to
many, not least the Royal College of Psychiatrists.
Then – equally unfortunate in the light of the recent political
dogfights over waiting times and cancelled operations – in a survey
of more than 1,400 professionals working with older people, nine in
10 said pressure on hospital beds resulted in older people being
discharged from hospital too early. A similar proportion suggested
that many hospital admissions could be prevented if older people’s
needs were met earlier.
Now, just to add to Milburn’s woes, Community Care has revealed
the extent of the “quagmire” Labour is presiding over in health and
social care for many thousands of older people.
The review of continuing care cases, where full NHS funding may
have been wrongly denied to patients with long-term health
problems, has fallen seriously behind. And the health ombudsman is
in talks with the government about the “huge confusion” generated
by its multi-layered system of nursing contributions, eligibility
criteria, fee bands and means-tested services.
There are 11 million voters older than 60 in the UK. Research
suggests seven in 10 always vote in a general election, and that
they are more than willing to change their vote in response to
events. Milburn and his colleagues in government would do well to