The middle classes in Britain come out the worst in a recession since they invariably feel the brunt of higher taxation, whereas the rich find ways and means to avoid its crippling effect, always ensuring it will neither decrease their wealth nor lower their standard of living. Far from it: Miraculously, their wealth seems to multiply and their extravagance shows no sign of abatement.
However, we are told life expectancy improvements are ‘grinding to a halt’ because of our ailing NHS and social care system, experts have warned. And believe it or not, the middle classes are predicted to be hardest hit by the phenomenon as they struggle to afford rising care bills in old age.
Researchers also blame the toll of dementia for the sudden stagnation of increases in life-expectancy. A team of academics from UCL have found that since 2010, historical increases in life-expectancy have dramatically stalled. Before then, average life-expectancy at birth in the UK, for women, was going up by one year every five years. For men – who have lower life-expectancy – it was increasing at a faster pace of an extra one year every three and a half years. Since 2010, the women’s rate is increasing by one year every ten years. For men, average life-expectancy is going up by an extra year every six years. Research was led by Professor Sir Michael Marmot – a global expert in the field of health inequalities – who predicted life-expectancies could soon start to decline.
According to the Office for National Statistics’ predictions analysed by UCL, a girl born between 2013 and 2015 can expect to live for 80.3 years. A boy born in the same period will live for an average of 75.6 years. These estimates are based on complicated calculations which take into account current death rates among the elderly and overall standards of living.
Professor Marmot said the recent increases in life expectancy where ‘pretty close to having ground to a halt.’ He blamed the ‘miserly funding of the NHS and social care systems’ which has left them unable to meet the needs of the ageing population. He also highlighted that the leading cause of death among the very old was dementia and Alzheimer’s. He said: ‘Dementia on the death certificate is the tip of the iceberg. If people are dying of dementia that means there are a lot of people living with dementia. Dementia could have played an important part in the stagnation in increases in life-expectancy,’ Professor Marmot added.
Other factors involved patients being denied the latest cancer drugs, waiting time for routine operations on the rise and thousands facing lengthy delays in ambulances or in A & E departments. Social Care services are said to be on the brink of collapse and severely ill elderly patients are being refused council-funded home visits.
Professor Marmot and his team, from UCL’s Institute of Health Equity, said: ‘The middle class would be most affected by the stagnation. Unlike the wealthiest households, they will be unable to pay for their own social or private health care. Poorer adults meanwhile tend to die before reaching their late seventies or eighties, which is when the deficiencies in NHS and social care provision have the greatest effects.’
Professor Marmot said: ‘I am deeply concerned with the levelling off. I expected it to just keep getting better. I would say it is a matter of urgency to examine why this has happened. I am deeply concerned that if we do not fund health and social care, people will lead much worse lives. If we don’t spend appropriately on social care, if we don’t spend appropriately on health care, then certainly the quality of life will get worse for older people and maybe the length of life too.’
A Department of Health spokesman said: ‘Just last week the NHS was rated the number one health service in the world. Life expectancy continues to increase. We continue to invest to ensure our ageing population is well cared with £6 billion extra going into NHS over the last two years and an additional £2 billion for the social care system.’
It is hard who to believe. The government tells a different story. The NHS in the view of most experts is desperately in need of additional funds in order to function properly and the present government, as it stands today, does not know the difference between its head from its tail.
The Brexit drama is yet to reach its climax and who knows what will happen in the next few years. But what is certain is that the poor middle-classes are in for a proper thumping.