Health, care and the 100-year life

This report from the UK think tank the Social Market Foundation looks at how policymakers can ensure health and fairness for all in an era of extreme longevity.

Increasing longevity raises a series of questions about the future of the health, care and medicine systems of the UK. Are these systems sustainable? What new challenges might these systems face? Will the 100-year life be beneficial to all members of society?

Part two of this report focuses on the sustainability of the NHS and social care, the future of access to medicines and the inequalities in life expectancy throughout the UK. The UK’s rising age dependency ratio may cause problems for a healthcare service that is funded through general taxation and therefore relies heavily on those of working age. There is a risk that the cost pressures faced by the NHS could lead to a situation whereby new and innovate medicines are not available to people relying on state healthcare. This could lead to a two-tier health system in the UK. There is much discussion about wealth and income inequality in the UK – but health inequality and life expectancy gaps often get overlooked – the analysis shows that between 2011 and 2017, the most deprived men and women in society saw their healthy life expectancy reduce.

Part three focuses on the public’s expectations regarding their health and the healthcare system. Based on polling conducted for the SMF – it is evident that people already doubt the ability of the NHS to continue to operate in its current form. More than half (57%) of respondents to the survey agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “the NHS is not set up to deal with the challenges of an aging population”. The evidence shows that people significantly underestimate their life expectancy, whilst simultaneously overestimating the number of years they will spend in good health. People are overly confident that they will not be affected by a range of conditions and illnesses – only a fifth of people surveyed believe they will be affected by cancer, irrespective of the fact that most evidence points to a prevalence rate of one in two amongst those born after 1960.

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