Delayed hospital discharges due to a lack of social care are costing the NHS a staggering £500 a minute, new analysis by Age UK has highlighted.
The charity echoes concerns made by the Rural Services Network that the needs of older rural residents are not being adequately met.
Age UK says the number of older people living with an unmet care need has risen by 19% to nearly 1 in 7 older people in just two years.
Of the 1.4 million older people affected, more than 300,000 need help with three or more essential everyday tasks, says the charity.
These tasks include getting out of bed, going to the toilet or getting dressed.
More than half of these people get no help at all from paid carers, family members or friends, says Age UK.
“It is getting ever harder to access care if you need it and increasing numbers of frail, ill older people are being left to manage alone,” said Age UK’s charity director Caroline Abrahams.
“If an older person needs social care but can’t get it this is a surefire recipe for them to become weaker and less well.
"They are at far greater risk of not eating enough and of falling and hurting themselves because of trying to do more than they really should.
"And it goes without saying that their lives are likely to be diminished and made more miserable."
Meanwhile, Age UK’s analysis also found that delayed discharges from hospital due to a lack of social care are now costing the NHS more than £500 a minute.
“These numbers show the folly and sheer wastefulness of the government’s failure to invest anything like enough money in social care,” said Ms Abrahams.
“We all depend on the NHS so we all lose out if it has less money to spend due to the lack of social care, but there is no doubt that it’s our older population who are paying the highest price of all – with their health, their happiness and sometimes even their lives.
Ms Abrahams said it was high time the government saw health and care as one whole system and provided the resources needed by both.
Sign up to our newsletter to receive all the latest news and updates.