The cost of this in distress, unhappiness or inconvenience to older people is hard to calculate. The costs to the NHS are more quantifiable: one third of older people had visited their GP in the previous four weeks, and 20% of these twice. More than half the sample needed a prescription medicine and 86% of these had visited a pharmacy or arranged for someone to do so on their behalf during the last four weeks.
Older people over 60 now number 12 million - some 21% of the population. Their numbers are growing, particularly the older age groups. Older people as a whole make extensive use of the health services, and four fifths of those needed prescriptions for medicines were receiving repeat prescriptions.
'It is astonishing that more resources are not put into both the search for cures - rather than simply managing pain and chronic illness - and the provision of services which might help retain the older generation's independence', says Mervyn Kohler, head of public affairs. 'The effort of visiting GPs and having to keep visiting pharmacies adds up to a great deal of time and inconvenience,' he adds.
Questioned in more detail about pharmacies, a quarter of respondents had been inconvenienced by having to make repeat visit is because the prescribed medicine was out of stock, and not surprisingly the older age groups took greater advantage of home delivery services - 10% of the 75s. Whilst home delivery of prescription medicines is not currently available to much of the population, those who had used this service rated it at almost nine, second only to GPs.