Health expert: Pensioners are being ‘betrayed’

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A leading health expert claims pensioners who helped build the welfare state risk being ‘betrayed’ by poor pensions and healthcare.

John Ashton, who served as the north-west’s public health director from 1993 to 2006 and remains one of the region’s top doctors, says the generation that rebuilt post-war Britain are among the worst losers in government cuts.

Prof Ashton, who has previously hit out over NHS reform, spoke out as he prepared to take up a new role at the UK’s top public health body.

He claimed politicians of all parties were failing to tackle the pensions crisis – and were ignoring challenges already facing hard-pressed pensioners.

He said: “The elderly are frightened of what is going to happen to them. There is a debt of honour we owe the elderly.

“They fought in World War Two or contributed to the war effort and wanted to create a secure environment that came to be known as the welfare state which is now being portrayed as dependants and layabouts. It is an abominable betrayal.

“Social care has to be properly funded and all parties are avoiding this issue, without proper funding we are going to have more and more care scandals.”

Prof Ashton, currently director of public health in Cumbria, is due to take up the role as president of the Faculty of Public Health – the body for the country’s public health officials.

It is the second scathing attack by the official – who was threatened with disciplinary action last year and challenged by government ministers in Parliament after signing a letter which attacked proposed NHS reforms. He added that current changes had shifted resources from creating local, community-based services for the growing elderly population.

He added: “We are dismantling the health service at exactly the time when it is going to be needed to care for large numbers of elderly. The reorganisation puts the NHS at risk of more scandals because it takes people’s eyes off the ball. I have been in the service for 20 years and this is my seventh or eight reorganisation.

“We were trying to rebuild cottage hospitals and community services to keep the elderly at home or near to home and this has blighted that process. Under the new system there will be fragmentation and duplication and that makes it much more difficult to run effective services.”