Triple whammy

    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
    remember that.


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