Older Londoners concerned about their ability to access healthcare

Research conducted by Age UK London shows that almost two thirds of older Londoners (63%) are concerned about their ability to access healthcare when they need it.

This reflects qualitative findings that older Londoners are finding it difficult to access health services in the current context of NHS pressures. When asked, only 37% of older Londoners agree with the statement: “I feel confident I will get quality healthcare when I need it.”

The concern about the future of the healthcare system is linked to a fear that it will become harder to access just at the point when they will need to rely on it most. Many mentioned that access challenges included:

  • low availability of appointments (e.g. their GP);
  • navigating digital health services (online booking, virtual appointments);
  • and low awareness of support for longer term health planning (e.g. care, assisted living, ad hoc services).

Those who are financially precarious, live in socially or private rented housing, live only on the State Pension and who have a disability or long-term health condition also have significantly fewer positive experiences than their peers.

The research also highlighted that experiences of older age are much more challenging for those in poor health, with more than a third (36%) not satisfied with their health and wellbeing. This figure rises to more than half (52%) looking specifically at those living solely on a state pension and in social housing, indicating levels of unmet needs.

Where you live in London also makes a difference: for those living in outer London, a third (33%) feel confident that they will get quality healthcare when they need it, compared with 42% of those living in inner London.

One respondent who was 80 years old said: “You wait 3-4 weeks before you can see a doctor, whereas in the old days you’d be there within hours. The healthcare system for the elderly hasn’t improved at all which I think should be looked at.”

Abi Wood, CEO, Age UK London said: “Our research once again uncovers the many contrasts for older Londoners when it comes to caring for their health. We are concerned for those people who are living only on a pension and in social housing and those with disabilities who clearly face additional challenges when it comes to their health and wellbeing.

“Our research also showed the understandable concerns for all Londoners when it came to their health particularly when it came to accessing healthcare – especially at a time in their lives when it is needed most. In addition, the NHS must focus on making access to services offline to cater for the thousands of older people who are not digitally connected.”

The research, published in a report titled ‘Older Londoners: the highs and lows of living in the capital,’ was carried out with over 1,000 Londoners aged over 60 by Think Research and Strategy. The report considers a wide array of views and experiences, including health and wellbeing, finances, housing, public transport, public spaces, and family and community connections.

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