The government will fail to achieve its mission to improve healthy ageing unless it acts now to drive and support innovation, a House of Lords inquiry has found.
In 2017 the government identified ‘Ageing Society’ as one of the Industrial Strategy’s four Grand Challenges, with a plan to ensure that people can enjoy at least five extra healthy, independent years of life by 2035, while narrowing the gap between the experience of the richest and poorest.
But the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee said the government is not on track to meet either of these targets.
“For men, we heard that it will take 75 years to achieve the target at current rates of improvement, not the 15 years that remain,” the report said.
“For women, healthy life expectancy at birth has decreased in the past decade, further widening the gap between healthy life expectancy and life expectancy, and making the Government’s target even harder to achieve.”
“Inequalities in healthy life expectancy remain stark: people in the most deprived groups on average spend almost 20 years longer in poor health than those in the least deprived groups.
“There are also shockingly large differences in healthy life expectancy amongst ethnic groups.”
The Committee warned that “concerted action” is required in order to increase the number of years spent in good health in old age.
It said health services should be coordinated to better treat people with multiple age-related illnesses, and technology and services should be deployed more widely to support independent living in old age.
The Committee also urged Matt Hancock, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, to produce a cross-government strategy, which states how the government plans to achieve the Ageing Society Grand Challenge mission by 2035.
The strategy should include a roadmap for how the government intends to achieve the mission, and should specify the departments responsible for working towards the target, the report said.
Chair of the Committee, Lord Patel, said: “The Committee found that the government needs to urgently address the key issues of reducing health inequalities, implementing health system reforms and promoting lifestyle changes.
“Furthermore, technologies can be better utilised to help people live independently for longer.
“The government must act now to increase support for the exciting new scientific research that targets the underlying processes of ageing. Treatments are being developed that could improve health without the need to treat multiple separate illnesses.”
David Sinclair, Director of the International Longevity Centre – UK (ILC), said: “It feels like groundhog day with yet another Parliamentary report highlighting our failure to respond to ageing.
“It doesn’t have to be this way. As the Lords report highlights, the UK could lead the way. We are global leaders in health and technology. Government must drive and better support innovations if we are to deliver a longevity dividend.
“COVID-19 has highlighted the inequalities in ageing. Too many of us are ageing badly.
The government’s aim to deliver five extra healthy years of life by 2035 is laudable and exciting but completely unachievable without major policy change. We need a major focus on preventative health not just nice policy words.”