Intended for healthcare professionals


How to meet the challenge of ageing populations

BMJ 2011; 342 doi: (Published 20 June 2011) Cite this as: BMJ 2011;342:d3815
  1. Nick Fahy, consultant and researcher on European health issues1,
  2. Martin McKee, professor of European public health 2,
  3. Reinhard Busse, professor of healthcare management3,
  4. Emily Grundy, professor of demographic gerontology2
  1. 1Nick Fahy Consulting, Tunbridge Wells TN1 2HX, UK
  2. 2London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, London, UK
  3. 3Technical University of Berlin, Berlin, Germany
  1. nick{at}

EU countries need to work together with health professionals and other stakeholders

The EU partnership aims to add two years of healthy life to the European average by 2020

One of the main arguments used to justify major reform of the NHS is the potential cost of an ageing population. The United Kingdom is not alone; the number of people aged over 65 in the European Union will almost double over the next 50 years,1 and there will be only two people of “working age” for each person over 65 compared with four today. It is estimated that this could cost EU countries as much as 15-40% on top of current expenditure to maintain existing health services. So how is Europe collectively responding?

EU leaders (including those from the UK) are pinning much hope on “innovation”—speeding up the process of bringing new ideas from research to practical application.2 As part of this “innovation union” initiative, the European Commission has proposed a “pilot partnership on active and healthy ageing.”3 By bringing together government officials, industry, health professionals, and other stakeholders from across Europe, the commission hopes to find …

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