HEALTH: Less chance to prevent illness

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A few years ago, as someone well past pension age, I was routinely invited to the local GP surgery for what we called our ‘bi-annual MOT’.

My blood pressure was tested, among other things, and I was given lifestyle advice and the occasional warning. This very sensible service then ceased.

Some of the advice was about routinely taking exercise and I went to the Willowburn Centre regularly. I had a Be Active card, which cost (as far as I remember) £3 for three years and entitled me to reduced cost access to the swimming pool, where there were special Be Active sessions.

Compared to the Prudhoe pool, where I had been a regular user, I found it to be less well managed, with unmarked swimming lanes for speeds, etc. But at least I was able to keep my weight and blood pressure under control.

That £3 for three years has now gone up to £12pa – a 12-fold increase. The cost of having a swim or being a gym member has also increased dramatically.

In fact, the whole process of prevention of illness in later life has come to a halt. Yet people are complaining that we older people are putting stress on the health service.

I believe that Active Leisure is attempting to cash in on the so-called ‘Grey pound’ without regard for the consequences. I left Willowburn a long time ago and joined another gym.

Research at Newcastle University indicates that an eight-year-old child has a 75 per cent chance of living to the age of 100, and a new-born has a reasonable chance of living to 105. The NHS is unable to plan for such longevity. It hasn’t even planned for the present older population.

The research also suggests that people will be working for most of their lives because governments will not be able to pay pensions for our whole lifetimes.

The health service will be overwhelmed and so-called public services, such as Active Leisure, will contribute to the whole mess by pricing older people on lower incomes out of the prevention market. It appears there is now no prevention strategy. I sometimes wonder if no strategy is the strategy – the sooner these pesky older people die off, the less they will be a burden.

Seeing a GP has become a lost cause to me. I have had an irritating problem for over a year, resulting in three phone calls from the practice, prescriptions over the phone and a referral to the ENT service. The only doctor I have seen has been the ENT consultant and despite his advice, the problem has not abated.

I believe these problems are a result of the Tory policy of austerity, reducing public services at a time of greater need to give people earning large sums of money reductions in their tax liability.

There is concern about the future care of older people and it will be interesting to see whether the new administration will address this matter. If it does, any changes are unlikely to be supported by our MP as she supported Osborne’s austerity programme.

MJ Tuckwell,

Farriers Rise,

Shilbottle