Thursday, 15 December 2011

Technology works (“if delivered properly”)

Posted on December 15, 2011 at

Telecare and telemedicine can improve health outcomes and save money, argued the Prime Minister last week.[1]

The Whole System Demonstrator (WSD) programme was set up by the Department of Health to attempt to, amongst other things, explore the evidence base as to the effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of these technologies. This week the Department of Health (DH) published the headline findings from the WSD.[2]

The findings are striking. “If delivered properly, telehealth can substantially reduce mortality, reduce the need for admissions to hospital, lower the number of bed days spent in hospital and reduce the time spent in A&E” argued the DH.

The randomised control trial of over 6000 patients found that if delivered properly telehealth can deliver:
• 15% reduction in A&E visits,
• 20% reduction in emergency admissions
• 14% reduction in bed days
• 8% reduction in tariff costs
• 45% reduction in bed days

Now this won’t be news to many. Many have made similar claims of effectiveness before (Companies selling these technologies, Government, local authorities, voluntary sector), but having this new data is very good news. There should however be a real note of caution. The short paper implies more questions than answers. The “if delivered properly” caveat needs to have been explained. Sadly the three page report feels too much like it was rushed out in order to give the Prime Minister something to announce.

Our report on Centenarians [3] published at the end of November highlighted a very interesting piece of research from Cambridge. “60% of interviewees aged over 90 had had a fall and that of these, four in five were unable to get up after at least one fall and almost a third had lain on the ground for an hour or more.” Yet in these cases, call alarms were widely available but not used [4]; a good example of technology not being delivered properly.

Even if there is a convincing case that technology, “if delivered properly”, can save money and improve health outcomes, we probably need to know more about how much it may cost and how possible it will be to “deliver properly”.

The Whole System Demonstrator seems to be revealing good news. But in a time of fiscal austerity and an ageing population, will commissioners have the resources to properly invest not just technology, but also the support package needed to ensure that the financial and health outcomes are maximised?

David Sinclair
2. 3. Living Beyond 100 is available at: 4. Fleming and Brayne, 2008; Cambridge City over 75-Cohort. BMJ

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Are we becoming complacent about immunisaton

Posted at on
Front page news in today’s Brighton Argus makes very worrying if depressingly predictable reading (Measles Sweeps Through Brighton and Hove (1)). The newspaper reports that “Nine children at two Hove schools have been diagnosed with the potentially fatal infectious disease in the past couple of weeks – more than the entire number of cases in the whole of Sussex last year.” It goes on to point out that some babies too young to be vaccinated have contracted the condition from other children.

What this issue isn’t however, is a just local problem for the people of Brighton. France has seen a very severe outbreak this year and a quick “google news” search highlights measles outbreaks in Canada, the United States (2), and New Zealand.

Just last week, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), highlighted “worrying signals” on epidemics of measles. Marc Sprenger, ECDC director argued that “The biggest threat we face is complacency about infectious diseases. The attitude that the battle against infectious diseases has been won must be continuously challenged,” (3)

In Brighton, authorities are responding by vaccinating children in schools. This is of course vital. Earlier this year the Health Protection Agency (HPA) urged parents to ensure that their children were vaccinated after a “tenfold increase in measles cases in the first four months of the year” (4)

It is easy to say after the event that children should have been vaccinated earlier. But what this outbreak does highlight is that despite warnings from the HPA, we may have taken our eye of the ball.

Over the last few years, ILC-UK has been studying and developing the case for adult immunisation. Through the ILC global alliance we have published reports (5) on the case for a life-course approach to vaccination. ILC-UK has developed thinking on how we could better deliver the flu vaccination to adults (6). ILC-UK also presented our thoughts on adult immunisation at European Health Forum Gastein earlier this year. (7) (8)

So, how does the measles outbreak among children fit in with our concerns about adult immunisation? At one level, it is important to note that measles occurs in adulthood as well as in children. It is also worth mentioning the importance of herd immunity (9).

But there are much bigger issues at play here and they are extremely worrying. The reality, as highlighted by ECDC, is that perhaps we are becoming complacent about immunisation.

Vaccination has a very positive story to tell, having controlled 12 major diseases (in many parts of the world). Other than clean water, it has probably had the biggest impact on mortality reduction and population growth.

Historically, we have “done” child immunisation very well in the UK. But we must ensure that as a result complacency doesn’t undermine progress. And we need to work across all vaccine preventable diseases to ensure that we not only continue to do child immunisation well, but that we improve it.

Alongside this, we must improve the way we deliver vaccination across the lifecourse. When the HPA made their warnings in May, their spokesperson, Dr Mary Ramsay, said “You’re never too old to get vaccinated” (4). Let’s hope we can find a way to better get this message out.

David Sinclair

2.There have been 220 cases of measles in the United States this year, the most since 1996
5.See: and
7.Our slides from the European Health Forum Gastein can be found at
8.ILC-UK receives some (unrestricted) support from Amgen, Sanofi Pasteur MSD and Pfizer

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Half Marathon's

Last week I ran the Great North Run. It was fun. And being my fifth competitive half marathon, it means I'm starting to get a bit of data to play with.

September 18th 2011. Great North Run. 2 hours 25 minutes, 21 seconds
February 20th 2011. Brighton Half. 2 hours 28 minutes, 44 seconds
September 26th 2010. Run to the Beast. 2 hours 40 minutes, 39 seconds
October 11th 2009. Royal Parks Foundation Half. 2 hours 35 minutes
February 22nd 2009. Brighton Half. 2 hours 24 minutes, 18 seconds.

So it turns it turns out that my fastest half marathon was my first one. But I am very pleased that this year I've managed to get close to my personal best. Had the Great North Run not been so crowded I am pretty sure I would have beat my personal best.

And here are my split times (km) below.

GNR2011 B2011 R2010 Parks09 B2009
Split Time Time Time Time Time
1 10:09 7:16 7:31 7:04 6:45
2 3:41 6:59 7:10 6:59 6:53
3 6:52 7:11 7:16 7:06 6:19
4 6:50 7:11 7:27 7:08 6:11
5 6:45 7:19 7:27 7:06 6:00
6 7:10 7:09 7:26 7:07 6:29
7 7:13 7:23 7:21 7:13 6:30
8 7:08 7:24 8:01 6:55 6:39
9 6:49 7:05 7:54 7:17 6:41
10 6:54 7:12 7:32 6:46 6:12
11 6:34 7:02 7:03 7:09 6:38
12 6:42 7:13 7:35 7:15 5:46
13 7:04 6:53 7:42 7:00 6:49
14 7:16 6:58 7:44 7:18 6:37
15 6:43 7:03 8:09 7:01 7:02
16 6:44 6:43 7:44 7:47 6:45
17 6:57 7:00 7:20 8:03 6:47
18 7:12 7:08 7:24 7:47 6:14
19 6:38 6:37 7:34 7:32 7:09
20 6:10 6:35 7:33 7:49 7:18
21 6:33 5:55 8:06 7:51 7:15
22 1:19 1:29 1:36 1:48 5:21

Next half marathon is in two weeks time. Royal Parks Foundation Half Marathon 2011. Just 3 weeks after the Great North Run. Am hoping to go under 2.25 mins UPDATE: I managed the 2011 Royal Parks Half Marathon in a personal best of 2 hours 21 minutes, 45 seconds Split 1 06:26.5 2 06:25.5 3 06:43.0 4 06:34.2 5 06:54.0 6 06:51.7 7 06:59.7 8 07:40.5 9 06:57.8 10 06:50.7 11 06:51.4 12 06:41.5 13 06:44.1 14 06:50.0 15 06:46.3 16 06:24.0 17 06:50.5 18 06:35.3 19 06:18.6 20 06:16.4 21 06:11.0

Friday, 23 September 2011

Housing, demographic change and the National Planning Policy Framework

In 2007, ILC-UK published “Sustainable Planning for Housing in an Ageing Population” (1). It pointed out that older households will represent half of all household growth to 2026, that one third of households were headed by somebody aged over 60, and that the 80 plus population would grow by one million from 2008 to 2025. It made a strong case for planning future housing supply based on demographic change.

Yet planning has become a very real barrier to creating the sort of housing our society needs. We cannot blame planning alone for the lack of affordable or appropriate new housing. But it has played its part.

There is already a major shortage of well-designed housing across all tenures and housing types to meet the demographic challenge ahead. The growth in the older population will accentuate the problem and the shortages will get worse. That is, unless the planning system, current or future, systematically addresses the significant growth in older households.

Yet fears that the English countryside will be tarmacked over has led to recent campaigns by the National Trust and some national newspapers against the Government’s new National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF).

The Government’s recognition that planning was becoming a barrier to economic development led them to propose a new NPPF which reduces the 1300 pages of current planning regulation to just 52. But despite being a relatively short paper, officials have managed to incorporate some very positive policies in terms of demographic change. The NPPF talks for example, of planning to promote healthy communities and the need to create a good quality built environment which will support health and wellbeing. Most importantly in the context of demographic change, it talks of the importance of meeting the needs of present and future generations. And it flags the role for inclusive design.

The most controversial part of the NPPF is the presumption in favour of sustainable development. Yet this is a proposal which makes sense. For too long, planners have been tasked with finding reasons to oppose developments rather than actually planning for a changing world. Planning is an extremely important profession. Yet it is one which has become too focused on tick boxes and finding reasons to oppose.

Of course, green space is important, not least to wellbeing. But the framework does maintain the need to comply with local plans. Localism will ensure communities still have significant planning power. The Presumption only comes into effect when a Local Plan is not in place. Where a Local Plan has been prepared, development must accord with its policies or be refused. This is empowering for local democracy.

The NPPF is a positive development. It is also the only game in town. The current system is a complicated and convoluted one to work with. It contributes to housing supply not meeting demand. If we fail to produce adequate aspirational retirement housing for older people, we will not free up stock of existing housing for future generations.

Of course the NPPF could be developed further and it could actually be stronger on demographic change and the links between health and housing. But Government must resist any changes which could damage the ability of our communities to meet the demographic challenge ahead.


In September ILC-UK published “Establishing the Extra in Extra-Care” which set out the role for extra care housing in the context of demographic change. It highlighted how good quality specialist retirement housing is important for the health and wellbeing of the older population.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

#scrambledegg at the Paragon Hotel in Birmingham

I was very excited (see when I arrived at the breakfast station to discover scrambled egg which didnt look overcooked.

So excited that I rushed to get a plate and get some egg onto it before the flame under the egg added too much extra heat. In the dark of the room the egg looked perfect.

But that is where my joy ended. Whilst the egg didn't look overcooked, the light of my table revealed one of the worst scrambled egg sins. I'm pretty sure it was made with some sort of pre prepared mixture. And if it wasn't I really don't know how they have achieved such a bad result with real eggs. It wasn't the colour of egg (more white than yellow), the texture was weird (looked like it had been sliced), and it had no flavour at all.

Terrible. 1/10.

Location:Moseley St,Birmingham,United Kingdom

The world's best scrambled egg

Imagine my delight at coming down to breakfast and discovering scrambled eggs which didn't look overcooked.

You may not realise this but I strive for the prefect scrambled egg. Whether it be at home or in a hotel, I find myself becoming terribly grumpy at bad scrambled egg.

As you know, I am not a fussy eater and I hate waste. So far too often I clear a plate even if it's not particularly good. But my limit is scrambled egg. I simply can't eat bad scrambled egg.

This frequently causes familial issues where I end up cooking two lots of scrambled egg (some people insist on overcooked eggs). When family members have made me bad scrambled egg I come across as stuck-up for refusing to eat it.

So I'm delighted to launch today the first annual search for the best scrambled egg. I was going to limit my search to Britain but I will give the rest of the world a chance. That said, my experience of scrambled egg across mainland Europe is not a good one. Don't hold your hopes up Brussels.

To give a few tips for potential entrants, the most common mistake is that scrambled eggs are over-cooked. It's very easy to over cook scrambled eggs (even I sometimes do it so you can be forgiven). And hotel chains tend to deliver the worst examples. They frequently put overcooked scrambled eggs on a huge hotplate over a flame at 6 am. They are slowly cremated. That said, I've been to a couple of hotels which have done it well so it isn't impossible.

The ultimate crime against scrambled egg is to use some sort of fake egg mix to make it. It tastes and looks terrible. Don't do it.

Scrambled egg does need good seasoning. And it (probably- someone prove me wrong here) needs to be cooked using butter.

Scrambled egg often works well complemented with something like chilli or a tiny scraping of marmite. I personally prefer to under season and add the salt through marmite.

I'm after your nominations and I will try them out and report back. If you think you cook the best scrambled egg (at home, in a hotel or a restaurant) let me know and I will happily pop over to try it out. Do post your nominations below.

I will do this over the next 12 months so the deadline for entries is 20th September 2012. Which is my 38th birthday. On that morning I will return to the best provider and reward them with a homemade certificate. They will be so excited.

Give me your nominations below.

Location:Moseley St,Birmingham,United Kingdom

Friday, 16 September 2011

Council Tax Benefit reforms will pitch young against old, and poor against poor

The Welfare Reform Bill, currently passing through the House of Lords, has attracted much media attention this week. The decision to move the committee stages off the floor of the House and into a committee room has led to criticism that the debate on the bill is being ’squirreled away’[1].

The Bill will have a far reaching impact on all ages and it is vital that it gets a good hearing. It abolishes Council Tax Benefit and passes responsibility to local authorities to determine the support they give to low-income households to meet their council tax bills [2]. But local authorities must also deliver a 10 per cent cut in the total amount spent on Council Tax Benefit in their jurisdiction.

Pensioners, however, will be protected from this cut. The Government has said that it will do this by prescribing “the criteria, allowances and awards for council tax support to pensioners which local authorities will need to provide for in their local schemes”[3].

This policy represents a recipe for intergenerational conflict. It seems unjust that one group of the poor population will be treated differently to another. One implication is that if a charity were to run a take-up campaign – 3 million households do not claim the Council Tax Benefit they are entitled to [4] – to encourage older people to apply for the benefit for which they are entitled, they will be reducing the pot of money available for local authorities to fund support for other vulnerable groups. Pitching the poor against the poor is bad policy, and in this case, it will also pit young against old.

To an outsider it appears that the Government has watered down localism for political expediency. If the Government believes a reformed Council Tax Benefit system works better locally, then they should let local authorities manage the resources and not stipulate that any one group will be protected. Arguably this is merely a localism of political and fiscal convenience, not principle.

It is worth looking at the figures in more detail. Council Tax Benefit is actually the most popular means-tested benefit in terms of the number of recipients, that is, 5.8 million households. The benefit currently costs around £4.8 billion per year, with an average award of around £830 per year (it generally covers all of a household’s council tax bill) [5].

Almost half of recipients are households with occupants aged 60 or over, that is, 2.7 million people. There are 3.1 million working-age recipient households. We do not know the average awards for different age groups, but if we assume that households from different age groups receive roughly the same amount on average – which is a relatively safe assumption – this means that the required cut of £480 million must come entirely from the amount spent on working-age households. It would reduce the working-age bill to just under £2.3 billion, leading to an average award of around £735 per year, or a cut of around £95 per year.

This is not significantly more than the amount that would be cut if no groups were protected. But the fact that older households will have no cut means that based purely on their age, poorer older households will receive £95 more in Council Tax Benefit than poorer young households. This inequality will be exacerbated if council tax bills rise, yet the total amount that can be spent on Council Tax Benefit does not – a scenario which seems very likely. Older households could remain entitled to 100 per cent discounts as part of the pensioner protection, but working-age households would suffer a cut in the proportion of their bill that can be discounted, as well as a cut in the total amount received. The move to a locally administered and defined system will also undermine attempts to increase take-up as local authorities will receive no extra funds if take-up improves.

It is still the case that Council Tax bills in part of the country hit the asset rich, income poor very hard – older people are more likely to fall into this category. Moreover, around 1.3 million recipients are single female pensioners, who are especially susceptible to poverty. Yet 1.6 million working-age recipients have dependent children, and 1.1 million of these are lone parents. The age distribution of the impact of cuts remains unclear and there is no compelling argument why older people should be protected at the expense children and young people.

Of course, Council Tax Benefit reform is not the only aspect of the Bill which deserves attention through an intergenerational lens. For example, the social housing sector is extremely worried about the impact of Housing Benefit reform on the sustainability of some retirement housing options. This could have a knock-on impact on the housing market for all ages.

The Welfare Reform Bill is a very controversial one. In some ways, whether debate takes place on the floor of the House of Lords or in a committee room probably makes little difference. But what the Government must do is allow and encourage proper scrutiny. And intergenerational fairness must form part of this scrutiny.

Dr Craig Berry and David Sinclair

This blog was initially published at


2. For sake of clarity, Council Tax Benefit is not technically a benefit, but a reduction in the liability to pay tax




Monday, 12 September 2011

Can a Big Society for all ages improve the reputation of our cities?

The summer riots across a number of English cities prompted Weber Shandwick to organise an event last week which explored the how the reputation of cities could be improved.

Increasing urbanisation is paradoxical. The seminar heard that cities have long been seen as crime ridden, dirty and dangerous (Charles Dickens is to blame apparently). And whilst they are perceived by many as good places to visit, the English seem to perceive that village life is more pleasant.

But cities exist for a reason. The exchange of ideas, cultures and experiences is far easier in a city than in a rural area. Cities drive economic growth. And despite the growth of social media, face to face contact is still extremely important.

Over the past 25-30 years the brand image of many UK cities has improved. Cities such as Manchester and Leeds have been transformed and London is playing a significant “World City” role. The seminar heard that whilst the reputation of UK cities is still not brilliant, they are improving.

But did the riots change all of this? For a couple of days across cities in England, people were afraid for their homes. In a world of 24 hour rolling news, cities and towns found themselves attracting the interest of a global audience.

Riots are not a new phenomenon. In fact one presenter pointed out that they might actually be “a necessary/inevitable evil of cities”. And we do forget about them quickly. Relatively recent riots in Paris are distant memories for many of us and the experience of them does not seem to have a long term impact on tourism.

One area of consensus in the seminar was that we don’t really know what caused the riots: “the reasons are complex” said at least three participants. Some cities, with similar characteristics to London, Birmingham and Manchester did not find themselves subject to riots. And certainly not all deprived communities saw rioting. There was an overwhelming view from delegates that the cause wasn’t spending cuts but long term and structural challenges. “Criminality, not cuts” argued one panel member.

The seminar heard slightly differing views as to the extent to which solutions lay in terms of the physical (buildings/built environment) or in terms of human capital. Some felt that “shiny buildings don’t improve the life chances of people without skills”, whilst others highlighted the importance of a good quality built environment in terms of engendering public pride. If people don't respect where they live they will trash it, argued one participant.

Government’s response to the people issue is, “Big Society”. And as one commentator pointed out, far more people were up cleaning the following day than rioting in the evening.

But ILC-UK research (1) by Dylan Kneale has highlighted significant challenges of engaging older people in the urban areas with the Big Society. The research found that those living in urban areas are less interested in politics and significantly less likely to vote in all or most local elections than those in rural areas, although much of his effect appeared driven by higher levels of disadvantage and inequality in urban areas.

The analysis of the British Social Attitudes Survey found that:
*Older people in urban areas were not as interested in politics – twice as many older people in urban areas said they had little or no interest in politics (35%) compared to older rural residents (18%).
*Not only were adults of all ages in urban areas less interested in politics, they were significantly less likely to vote in all or most local elections than those in rural areas.
*Older people in urban areas are significantly less likely to have access to the internet at home (two-fifths do) than older people in rural or suburban areas (over half do).

It’s not just about people of course. And the advocates for an improved investment in a better built environment have a strong case. Housman redesigned Paris to reduce crime for example. We are seeing increasing evidence of the case for lifetime neigbourhoods to deliver better built environment for all. The coalition Government must continue the previous Government’s work to ensure that the design of communities meets the needs of a changing demography. There is clearly a need for a long term strategy for the development of our built environment.

But as our research has highlighted, if Government is to engage Big Society in tackling the causes of the riots, they will need to invest in creating a more engaged urban community. People matter. We have to find a way of ensuring greater equality of engagement in urban areas.

One contributor to the seminar pointed out that far too often we look to Government to solve these societal ills (“do something”). There is undoubtedly a role for local and national government, but as the contributor concluded “The ‘doing something’ people should be all of us”.

David Sinclair

(This blog was also published at


Weber Shandwick organised an event on “Restoring the Reputation of our Cities” on 7th September 2011. Speakers included: Andrew Carter, Director of Policy & Research, Centre for Cities; Chris Murray, Director, Core Cities; Tony Travers, Director of the Greater London group at the London School of Economics and Damian Wild, Editor, Estates Gazette.

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

Boiler rooms continue to cost the older consumer

The Times reported last week that “a new generation of ‘boiler rooms is cropping up overseas, stretching the ability of law enforcement agencies to stop them ripping off British Investors”.(1)

The term ‘boiler room’, is used to describe frauds in which sales people are hired to call unsuspecting individuals and push investment opportunities. These high-pressure calls are often used to sell worthless or nonexistent securities. These operations typically consist only of a large number of telephones in a single room, giving rise to their name.(2)

Boiler rooms represent a huge cost to the UK consumer. The FSA estimate that they cost the UK consumer £200 million a year.(3) And much of that cost falls on the older consumer. Six in ten of those exposed boiler rooms are aged over 45 and one in three (35%) over 65.(4)

Of course, not all older people are vulnerable consumers – and many are in fact more confident and experienced consumers. But as we get older, we are more likely to find ourselves vulnerable to scams, mis-selling and other consumer crimes. Research dating back to the 1970s suggests that older people may be ‘more easily persuaded and deceived, be less aware of unfair business practices, and have reduced information processing capabilities. (5) As a result, the research suggests this group more likely than other ages to find themselves vulnerable to consumer crime.

Recent years have seen a welcome increased interest from Government and police authorities on the issue of fraud. In 2005, and following a Manifesto commitment, the previous Government commissioned an interdepartmental review into the detection, investigation and prosecution of fraud. A review team comprising representatives from across the criminal justice system began work in October 2005 and the Fraud review was published in 2006.

Amongst other proposals in the review, the Government committed to setting up a National Fraud Strategic Authority to devise a national strategy for dealing with fraud and ensure that it is implemented. The review also proposed a new National Fraud Reporting Centre to tackle the problem of under-reporting and help enforcement officers identify trends and provide information to support investigations.

The National Fraud Strategic Authority (Now National Fraud Authority) was established in October 2008. And the Government has subsequently set up Action Fraud, as a single national place for individuals to report scams and frauds.

Since then, the FSA has worked with enforcement authorities to undertake a number of high profile enforcement actions. Six men and a woman were arrested, for example, in May 2009 for running illegal ‘boiler room’ share selling operations. The Financial Services Authority (FSA) said victims of the alleged fraud appeared to have lost £28m (6).

But whilst fraud has attracted much more attention in recent years, the perpetrators still seem to be ahead of the authorities. And despite the good progress over the past five years, there is much more that Government can do to tackle this challenge.

Alongside more research, more could be done to support victims of these crimes, who find there is very little (if anything) they can do about the losses they have suffered.

The multitude of bodies (OFT, FSA, NFA, SFO etc) tasked with working on this issue could still work better together. Alison McHaffie of Cameron McKenna is quoted in the Times as saying “Questions remain as to whether the present hotchpotch of overlapping jurisdictions is the best way to ensure these crooks are brought to justice”.(1)

There is also a need for greater interventions at an international level. There is a significant role for foreign governments (e.g. in Spain and Canada) in terms of tackling these crimes. In some countries little enforcement action happens because the perception of national agencies is that the victims are based in Britain, and the perpetrators, whilst based in their country, are also British. The responsibility then falls back onto British authorities who often have limited jurisdiction and powers.

Whilst some international cooperation exists, much more should be done to ensure criminals cannot exploit the lack of international cooperation to undertake fraudulent activities.

David Sinclair

(First published at

1) Forget Costa Del Crime, boiler room fraudsters have eyes on rest of the world. The Times, Thursday 25th August
5) Rosemary P. Ramsey, R; Marshall, G; Johnston, M; Deeter-Schmelz, D Ethical Ideologies and Older Consumer Perceptions of Unethical Sales Tactics Journal of Business Ethics (2007) 70:191–207

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Meatballs at Quality Chop House

When @georgedsinclair gets an idea into his head, he can be hard to persuade that it's a bad one. So from the moment two ladies stopped us on the corner of Exmouth Market, mentioning a new meatball restaurant, I knew we wouldn't be able to go elsewhere.

I like Exmouth Market. It's a nice area with some great restaurants and a nice vibe. It's also a shared space (road traffic and pedestrians the space). In effect it means that road traffic travels as slowly as pedestrians. It's also a relatively undiscovered bit of central London, not being particularly close to a tube line. (wiki link)

But I digress. We spent the weekend in the Holiday Inn on Kings Cross Road so it was just a stroll to Exmouth Market for tea on Saturday. And from the moment meatballs were mentioned I knew that would be where we were heading. 'I want meatballs', 'can we have meatballs?', 'Is this the meatballs restaurant?'....

I had mentioned to @shellsinclair the quality chop house on Farringdon Road but I couldn't see @georgedsinclair going for it. And I knew it was quite expensive. But we popped around the corner to look at the menu anyway, only to discover that the chop house was now the meatball restaurant (link).

So, bowing to the inevitable, we popped in. It was a good choice.

I had courgette meatballs in a curry sauce and @shellsinclair went for meatballs in a French Onion soup. Mr @georgedsinclair went for pork meatballs, partly because we thought these might be closest to the Ikea ones he loves (they weren't really). As sides we had some honey roasted carrots, Iceberg wedges with blue cheese and mash. It was all very very good, as well as being good value for money.

The place was child friendly and the staff had the good sense to ask if George wanted the sauce. He probably wouldn't have eaten them with if they hadn't.

For pudding I had a brownie ice cream sandwich. Again, very tasty. And george and I treated ourselves to milkshakes (strawberry and peanut butter respectively).

Meatballs at Quality Chop House is very good and I would certainly recommend. We went on the second day. The staff had too little to do which led to a slightly chaotic service. There was an eagerness to remove plates (done on two occasions before we had cleared them). They forgot the iceberg, and over the course we were served by pretty much every member of staff. But these issues will be sorted over time.

The meatballs were great. You must go.

Location:Rommany Rd,Lambeth,United Kingdom

Thursday, 25 August 2011

The economic cost of an ageing society

The economic cost of an ageing society is increasingly subject to debate. We know that the proportion of public expenditure committed to age-related spending will grow substantially in coming decades. And a declining old age dependency ratio is also likely to have significant economic effects.

The recently published, Office of Budget Responsibility ‘Fiscal Sustainability Report’ (1) argued that “Population ageing will put upward pressure on public spending”. They said that public spending aside from debt interest would increase by 5.4 per cent of GDP or £80 billion in today’s terms by 2061.

The OBR anticipated:
* Health spending rises from 7.4 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 to 9.8 per cent of GDP in 2060-61
* State pension costs increase from 5.5 per cent of GDP to 7.9 per cent of GDP as the population structure ages and State Second Pension entitlements mature. and
* Social care costs rise from 1.2 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 to 2 per cent of GDP in 2060-61. (2)

Moreover, these projections may be conservative: GDP growth could be slower than anticipated, but individual entitlements to certain aspects of age-related spending will be impossible to retrench. Health and care spending could increase further if longevity simply means we spend longer in ill-health towards the end of our lives – notwithstanding the significant uncertainty that surrounds the long term care funding system at present.

This week we saw further debate on the economic impact of an ageing society, but this time in terms of the future of investment returns. With a growing older population, we are likely to have more people decumulating their assets. In other words, a large cohort of retirees means that there will be more people selling their investments than there will be people re-investing through long term saving.

New research (2), by Zheng Liu and Mark Spiegel, published this week in the United States has explored this issue. The researchers explored data going back to 1954 to understand if there was a link therefore between age distribution and the performance of the stock market. They found there was.

They predicted that “the actual P/E ratio should decline from about 15 in 2010 to about 8.3 in 2025”. In effect they predicted a bear market up until 2021. Their good news, which seems little to get excited about, is that in 2030 (after the baby boomers have died!) the real value of equities will be about 20% higher than in 2010.

This research clearly adds another dimension to the economic impact of an ageing society. If it turns out to be an accurate prediction, very worrying times are ahead.

David Sinclair and Craig Berry

(Published initially at

2) The OBR also pointed out that “These increases are partially offset by a fall in gross public service pension payments from 2 per cent of GDP in 2015-16 to 1.4 per cent in 2060-61”

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Lansley asks the wrong questions on health apps

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley MP yesterday issued a call for health professionals and mobile phone ‘app’ designers to suggest new software which could help people improve their health. Apps could deliver improved monitoring of health or help nudge or support people towards healthy lifestyles.

If I had a pound for every time in the past two years someone had suggested to me that there should be a health app for X, well, I’d be at least £20 better off. But you get my point. There are thousands of ideas out there already, many of which are already on the market. This time last year there were over 250,000 health apps on the itunes store alone. (1)

The Times (2) reports that one of the apps likely to be considered would be a FluPhone, which would track epidemics by asking patients to record their symptoms. This might be a useful piece of software, but in the UK we have near real time reporting of flu immunisation anyway. And on a global level, services such as Google flu (3) have been monitoring flu levels for years. Government is often far slower than the market is.

Lansley claims that his desire is to “give people better access to information that will put them in control of their health and help make informed choices about their healthcare” (4). There is a strong case for Government to promote the best apps out there and doing so could help improve usage. But there is a weaker case for Government to be attempting to come up with ideas for new apps, particularly as the DH have confirmed that they have no money to develop them “We will not be announcing any funding for the development of the best health apps”, said a spokesperson.(5)

Fundamentally however, Lansley is missing the point. Whilst some apps could be better promoted, there is no shortage of ideas.

There are however lots of barriers in the way of the health service increasing its usage of smartphone apps. Digital Exclusion is one of them. If older people, the main users of health services, continue to be less likely than other ages to go online (through a computer or a smartphone) then the benefits of health apps may not reach their potential.

Another major challenge is that we still have far too limited a private purchase culture for health products. Most smartphone apps are purchased by individuals. Yet as ILC-UK research last year showed, we still know too little about how to reach and sell to the older consumer. (6)

But one of the biggest barriers to usage by the health services is the procurement model. ILC-UK did some work last year for a software company who wanted to sell in to the NHS. Their software targeted people with a specific condition and there were perhaps 10,000 potential recipients. But when they explored the market and discovered the cost and complexity of selling into the NHS, they found that they simply couldn’t get their product to market.

So, yes, Mr Lansley should be promoting the best health apps out there. But he must also address the other barriers to smartphone usage for health including digital exclusion, the need for more understanding of how to reach the older consumer, and the sometimes complicated and expensive process for selling into the NHS.

David Sinclair

(This post was also published at

2) NHS should be more switched on about apps, says Lansley. The Times, 22 August 2011 (£)
6) Sinclair (2010) The Golden Economy – The Consumer Marketplace in an Ageing Society

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Finally got round to putting my BSG presentation online.

This presentation asks whether the Web can save social care.

It argues that:

*We have more older people and are going to need more care

*Care is in crisis today. It is likely to get worse before it gets better

*Technology has a role to play

*But we have assumed the place of technology without addressing the barriers

*There are some challenges to overcome

Friday, 1 July 2011


No interest to anyone else, but am going to start recording the films I've seen. As of 1 July 2011

A Serious Man 4/7/2011 Coen Brothers. Finished on a very slow bus number 3. A burst watermain at Brixton meant the journey took over an hour. I didnt really get it.
Burn After Reading 9/7/2011. Another Coen Brothers. Finished in a Travelodge in Slough when Cycling with Joe Oldman. Pretty enjoyable film.
Fallen. 2/8/2011. Like Denzil Washington but didnt like the film. Bad demons fly into humans and do their deed.
Ready For This. 28/7/2011 Tim Minchin. Very good.
Year One. 23/8/2011. Jack Black. Just think about what they could have done with the money they used to make this. Very bad. But I quite liked it!
Yes Man 1/7/2011 Jim Carey Started watching on the number 3 bus. Finished on train to Chichester. Quite enjoyed it, despite it being predictable.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Pinocchio's, Minehead.

Not terrible. But could be so much better

From the outside it looks like a quaint Italian with a nice looking menu. 

My wife and I ate the deep fried goats cheese to start. Quite tasty but it was a pity that it looked a little too much like something you would buy in the freezer compartment of a supermarket. Assuming it was home made, a more natural looking breadcrumbs would have worked better. 

Our 4 year old demolished one of their pizzas and I really enjoyed the sauce on the seafood pasta. Overall, the food was quite tasty.

But they let themselves down on the detail. A bit of Italian music would work well - certainly better than U2. And I'm not convinced the pasta was home made.

I don't think the restaurant deserves the poor reviews it gets on tripadvisor but it could be so much better.

Posted on tripadvisor @

Monday, 30 May 2011

Mrs @Shellsinclair has a blog

Mrs @shellsinclair has a blog. It's at:

London Marathon 2011

I've been meaning for a while to write about the London Marathon.

Not a lot to say really. Looking at my splits (details below) I was pretty consistent (at a pace I was happy with) up until the last 10k when I slowed down by about 30 seconds or so per km.

I beat my time from 2 years ago but only by a couple of minutes.

Up until that last 10km I was really enjoying it. But Am not sure I'd do another one (at least until after I've retired!)

A few other things:
  • Toilets (lack of) was an issue and added probably 10 or 15 minutes.
  • The atmosphere at the start was great. Although I wasn't at that stage convinced I'd finish it (shin splints were playing up and I'd had 3 weeks of no running before the race)
  • Despite a race plan in terms of hydration, I accepted a couple of horrid tasting energy shots along the way. And had a lukozade gelling despite knowing it would make me feal sick (it did)
  • There was a wonderful atmosphere around east London.
  • Some great efforts from fundraisers. A lady pulling a huge tyre (why?); the man doing keepy-uppy; the blind policeman
  • For some foolish reason I decided to run wide on corners and roundabouts. really don't know why as it must have added a bit of distance.
  • Doing the long way round the roundabout at Tower Bridge meant I wad pretty much by myself. Lots of screaming of my name.
  • It was hot.
  • Saw someone having a seizure just a few hundred metres from the end. And saw quite a few people dropping out/ having massages. saw some bloody nipples.
  • Met the family at mile 11, canary wharf,and st james. Saw Maureen & Bruce on the last corner
  • Lots of sweets on offer around the course.
  • At a couple of points the shouting/screaming was very loud
  • Up to mile 16 I wanted to do it again. But the last 10km were very hard.

Some bands I've seen live

Sure there are lots of others.. I'll add to this As I remember.

Adam Ant (According to parents anyway. A long time ago. Early 1980s)
Aerosmith (Donnington, 1994)
Bluetones (london uni of london 1995 with James Elliot)
Beautiful south
Bleu (October 2010. Fantastic. Borderline London)
Brian May (day of geography a level. Met him after; Albert hall with brendon; Brixton academy)
Deus (London north? Ica for album Launch)
Elton john (hammersmith apollo 2006?; fm tribute concert)
Extreme (birmingham NEC 1990?; donnington 1994; London astoria, 2009?)
Flaming lips (winter 2006. M was pregnant with George - hammersmith apollo; camp bestival?; Glastonbury 2010)
Fm (Tivoli nore than once; Newcastle; London 2010?)
Kingmaker (hull club- played Leyroy brown during intro)
Lightening seeds (Astoria)
Little angels (missed them
In school but saw them at Tivoli I think)
Love/hate (Buckley Tivoli - more than once!)
Alanis Morissette (Shepherds Bush. Collecting for Oxfam and got to see soundcheck too)
Paul McCartney (Glastonbury, Earls Court)
Metallica (Manchester gmex 1992?;
Oasis (hull?; Buckley Tivoli; earls court; Glastonbury)
Queen + 2005 wembley, 02, wembley tent! Barcelona, nec,
Sas band
Taylor Hawkins (2010, feat b may and r taylor)
Teenage fanclub (hull uni; Astoria; ben and jerry)
Terrorvision (hull? Buckley Tivoli)
Therapy (donnington ? - bottles of wee!; Kentish town forum 2010. - poor sound and left early)
Ugly kid Joe (one of the best nights at buckley Tivoli, punched when grabbed bear from drumkit & sand mr recordman to them after with Nigel ashcroft)
Wildhearts (London 2009/8? Buckley Tivoli)

Monday, 23 May 2011

Ban everyone wearing yellow trousers.

When I was younger I occasionally went camping with friends. I remember us going to places like Shell Island for the weekend. It was fun. I don't think we caused trouble and it got us out looking after ourselves.

I don't know what I would do now. Over the last few weeks I've spent time in 8 different camp sites. All of them now ban unaccompanied young people and/or groups of single sex individuals.

Surely kids can be trusted to look after themselves? I suspect groups of young people can be noisy. And some are disruptive. But most are no more so than some of the families I've seen at the sites.

The sort of kids who want to go camping are probably not in the main, troublemakers. And the ban on young people at Shell Island hadn't stopped people taking things from tents (big signs around the site pointing out that there had been a spate of thefts). Why not ban everyone who turns up in yellow trousers as some people wearing yellow trousers caused trouble once?

The Equality Act means that those over 18 can't be discriminated against in access to goods and services. But as the Bill went through Parliament, why didn't the children's rights lobby advocate for greater protection of rights?

And why aren't the kids complaining?

Bristol to Bodmin

It all started going wrong last Monday. Just three days into my ride. Leaving Dulverton for a 4 mile hill up to Winsford in Exmore I started feeling pain in my right shin and left foot. by the time I arrived at a site near Winsford I could barely walk. I managed to walk down into Winsford and had a nice pub dinner. But walking back in the pitch dark was a bit scary.

Tuesday was wet, foggy and dreary. A day of rain and hills as I made my way over Exmoor. I arrived At Bartleycott Barton? before heading into Barnstable and watching a film in the cinema.

In theory, Wednesday was an easy day. As such I decided to leave late (just before 11 am) and headed along the Tarka trail to Bideford. I decided to add 5 miles to my journey by popping into Westward Ho!. Which was when disaster hit. A puncture which should have been easy to deal with made impossible by a pump which didn't work. And yes, @shellsinclair had advised me to check the pump before I left.

So I had to walk back to Bideford, via a hardware shop in Westward Ho! which had just run out of pumps. But could get me one by next Thursday. I found a cycle hire shop in Bideford which overcharged me and saw me as a pain. I think I interrupted the manager's PS3 playing. But by the time I'd got to the cycle shop the brake had broken too (I have disk brakes which are built into the wheel).

It was 5pm and I headed off to try and get to Highampton before dark (with no front brake and plenty of hills). I managed it by 8.30.

Had I been able to find a station, I would have come home on Thursday morning (I was over 30 miles from the closest one). Giant hills and no front brake were made worse when the back break went too. I managed to get into Bude and a very helpful cycle shop managed to fix both brakes. And at least the pain in my shin/foot had gone.

That afternoon, against the advice of the cycle shop manager, I cycled along the coast from Bude. Probably the steepest hills I've ever been up/down (steeper than 1 in 3). But beautiful views of the coast so certainly worth it.

Friday morning and breaks and gears were playing up. I managed to get to Bodmin by early morning, and, fearing for my bike and missing my family, I decided to head back to London. I bought a new ticket but was told I couldn't reserve a place for my bike. For some reason you need to reserve a bike space 24 hours in advance. Clearly a bonkers rule in a world of real time information systems. As indeed is the fact that you can only book a bicycle reservation at a station or by phone. But, despite a couple of officious staff on the trains, I made it back to London by 5pm.

So I didn't make the final 10 miles to Padstow. But I got to spend the weekend with the family. Which was much more fun.

Would I do it again? Probably not alone/ without support. And I would be careful to choose a flatter route.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Animals I've been chased by.

Today I was chased by a horse as I cycled across Exmoor.

Yes, moments after I took this snap, the horse started chasing me. It soon gave up when I stormed away on my bike though.

It made me think about all the animals I've been chased by.

1) Evil dog by Stephen Fairhurst's house. It bit me.
2) A wild boar in the Danube Delta. Actually very scary.
3) A cute dog, no more than 8 inches tall, recently born, who followed me for the best part of a mile in Constanta, hoping I'd take him in.

Anyway, today I cycled from Winsford to Barnstable. It rained. The whole way (5 hours). It was foggy. And I cant decide if Exmore is beautiful or dreary. Judge for yourself.

Picturesque Dulverton

One of the maps I'm using to get me from Bristol to Padstow described the village of Dulverton as "picturesque village".

Now, I'm not taking issue with whether or not it is indeed a picturesque village. In fact, it probably is.

But the point is that there are hundreds of picturesque villages. How did Dulverton attract the attention of cartographers when there are so many other picturesque villages? I suspect some Fifa esque dodgy dealing.

Whilst pondering this I had afternoon tea. In picturesque Dulverton.

I don't want to choose.

Another of *the few* things which annoys @shellsinclair is my inability to choose from a menu. Actually, it annoys Grandad Michael more.

But it is tough. How for example can you choose between the sometimes hundreds of choices.

So my tactic, which does not seem unreasonable to me, is to ask the waiter/ess to recomnend something.

So far this week when I've tried this I've had in response

"it depends what you like"
"I know what I would have but I dont think you would like it" (bear in mind this was from a waiter Id never met before"
"Well, the chocolate cake is good, so is the lemon cake and the scones... etc"

So, my challenge to restaurant owners. Have a single special which is the best thing on the menu. I dont want to choose.

As a result of forcing waiters to choose for me I've had great food which I would never have chosen myself. Take a look. Even the homemade faggots were good.

It will only take ten minutes.

It's one *of the few* things which I do which annoys @shellsinclair.

I'm not alone in doing it though. According to a couple of behavoural science books I've read, it's pretty common.

That is, significantly underestimating how long it will take me to do something. Whether it be mopping the floor or doing the washing up, I think it will take me ten minutes. It never does.

Yesterday I cycled between Wooky and Taunton. Today I cycled between Taunton and Winsford. On both days I've convinced myself that I would be at my location by lunchtime and struggling to find something to do. Even during the ride when it was becoming obvious that I wouldnt make it by lunchtime, I slightly changed my estimation to another equally unrealistic target. Despite leaving at 8am ish both days, I didnt arrive at my destination until after 5pm.

I am however, absolutely convinced that I will be at tomorrow's destination (Barnstable) by lunchtime. Or at least by 2pm. Or possibly 3.

Anyway, off now to put up
my tent. It will only take ten minutes.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Wells? Call that a city?

After offending the people of Frenchay yesterday, its time to move on to Wells.

Now, dont get me wrong, it is a very beautiful town. But it's not a bloody city. For a start, I couldnt find either a Weatherspoons, a Greggs or a Burger King.

Golly, however, the people of the town do like to dress up. I've never before seen such a beautifully dressed group of people. The restaurants look nice, the place is very pretty. But it isnt a city.

For a start, where are the kids having fun on a Saturday night? Where are the nightclubs or loud pubs?

I have to say though (and perhaps it's me getting old), I liked the place and would gladly move there.

Anyway, today I cycled from Bristol to Wooky. A total of 66.67km according to my garmin. This was the first day of my trip along the national cycle network route 3 from Bristol to Padstow.

It took me about 30 minutes to get to the start of the route. The disused Bristol to Bath train path. It was a very nice start to my ride. A flat 25km on a route I couldnt go wrong on.

I saw a steam train, Thomas, a disused platform turned into a cafe and a big group doing a charity walk.

Annoyingly the signage (lack of) meant I missed my junction and ended up doing 4km or so more than I should.

The next 20 or so kilometers went through some nice little villages.

But... Why did no-one tell me the route went over the Mendips. Let's just say the last 20km were very hilly.

Anyway, got to Wooky, tent up, then popped into Wells where I managed to buy 3 meals from the coop for £8.

Am staying at Homestead Park. The showers are hot. And the lady at reception was very nice.

When I offered to pay by cheque they wanted my cheque guarantee card. Who knew people still did that?

So this is my tent below. I'm planning to get in there now. The last time I went camping my tent blew down with our 4 year old still sleeping in it (and oblivious). I'm slightly scarred. Wish me well.

And this is where I cycled on Saturday 14th. Bristol to Wooky

Why would anyone live in Frenchay

I am a very lucky man. For the next week I've been given a hall pass and will be spending it travelling on my bike between Bristol and Padstow.

I arrived in Bristol yesterday and after a few (very enjoyable) meetings chatting about travel and older people at UWE I checked in for my first night.

I am cheating a little in that I stayed in a Holiday Inn near the University rather than in my tent for the first night.

Within about 5 mins of checking in I was slightly bored. Not a good sign before 8 days by myself. But one of the reasons I wanted to cycle was to have a bit of time (and quiet). As well as a desire to get a bit of exercise and see a new bit of the world.

After faffing for an hour or so (flicking through channels) I went for a stroll to what has to be one of the most tedious towns in the country.

Frenchay makes Buckley look interesting. Other than a Harvester (and a very good Indian) I saw absolutely nothing of interest. And yet the town has a museum (only open for about four hours a week).

There is a huge hospital and I popped in. At one stage things were getting so desparate that I even considered eating there. I could have gone back to the hotel to eat but it would have cost
me almost as much as my room.

Anyway, back to Frenchey, a town pretty much under the motorway. How did it get like this?

It's bloody cars.

I suspect that when people go out, they get in a car and go to Bristol or their nearest out of towmn supermarket. As a result there is no business in town any more.

Its not even an attractive village with far too many cars speeding past. Just dull, dull, dull. Could I find an interesting counrtry pub? Nope, just the Harvester.

So, after food in Raj Mahal, which incidentally was very good, I strolled back to the hotel, watched 10 mins of Cardiff vs Reading before retiring to HIGNFY (v funny) and Later with Jules (Loved Randy Newman - he should have done the theme to Monk).

In celebrating the trivial little things I spotted, the phrase 'more money than sense' seems apt. I saw a couple buy a bottle of wine in the Indian to take home (£12 plus an extra tip) even though they could have bought 3 bottles of the same wine in the conveniene stoor literally next door. Even the waiter questioned them asking them if they realised how much the wine was.

Getting back to the hotel I saw a lady pay in cash for a room. Paying the rack rate of £160. I had paid £39. All she needed to do was go online and she could have got it for £70*. Perhaps she was having an affair or running away from the law? Who knows?

So in the absense of anything big happening in Somerset this week I'm expecting to fill my time with the trivial side of people watching. I am very much looking forward to it.

PS, anyone know what this place is?

*I looked!.


Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Dropping targets for adult participation in sport could prove an expensive folly.

The last day of the Olympic ticket sales lottery yesterday was marked with much media interest in the potential success (or otherwise) of the 2012 games.

But whilst organisationaly, planning for the events seems to be going very well, the Government is back-tracking on plans to use the Olympics to motivate adults to engage in sport.

In an interview with the Guardian last month, Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt MP confirmed that the Government will no longer aspire to meet its target of inspiring participation by one million adults. Very little progress has been made since the target was set, and cynics would say that one reason for dropping the target is that it is unlikely to be achieved.

Talking to the Guardian, Hunt announced a strategy shift for Sport England, saying that from 2013, the organisation would focus its strategy on school-leavers and young adults. Mr Hunt said: “I do think it’s reasonable to ask whether, with resources as constrained as they are, if it’s an appropriate use of taxpayers money to be focusing on adult participation when really what we want is to be getting young people into a habit for life.”

Much of the language and message about the London Olympics has, since the launch of the bid, focused on the benefit of the Olympics for a younger generation. In the 2006 Budget speech, for example Gordon Brown MP said that the “Olympics will inspire young people all across Britain and we must open up to them new opportunities to take part in sports.”

It is absolutely right that we should look to the Olympics to motivate young people. But there should be no reason why the Olympics cannot motivate all ages to participate in sport and physical activity.

The reality is that one of the reasons there has been little progress in terms of adult participation is that there remains far too little support to engage adults/older adults in physical activity. Yet there is vast (and growing) evidence that sport and physical activity can play a huge role in preventing some of the health problems we often experience later in life. These include falls, cancer, cardio-vascular disease and osteoporosis, all of which cost the health services billions of pounds a year.

Of course we shouldn’t expect Government to do it for us. There has to be a role for individuals and perhaps the Big Society could help push up participation.

But for far too long Governments seems to have put the barriers to physical activity into the ‘too difficult’ box. Research has shown for example, that community issues can create a barrier to participation in physical activity. For example, a fear of crime or a lack of toilets can stop people doing some simple activities such as going out for a walk. Localism presents a huge opportunity for local authorities to intervene. As public health budgets are taken from PCT’s, will local authorities use some of the money to invest in tackling the barriers to participation?

Engaging adults of all ages in sport doesn’t just benefit their health. It also helps younger people access opportunities for participation. The Olympics will rely heavily on older volunteers for example. Big and small sporting events across the country benefit from the huge contribution given by older volunteers.

Yes, in times where money is tight, the Government should prioritise spending. But participation in sport declines with age. In other words, finding ways of keeping people participating well into adulthood and old age should be as big a priority as getting people engaged in the first place.

The Government must take a more strategic and long term view here. We need to not pitch one generation against another, but take a lifecourse approach and look more at investment in health promotion at different life stages.

For the Government to say that it will not focus on all ages is a folly, and one that could prove to be very costly.

David Sinclair

See: Jeremy Hunt admits London 2012 legacy targets will be scrapped 29th March 2011

Sunday, 27 March 2011

Health at a Glance: Europe 2010

A recent special edition of Health at a Glance (1) reveals new evidence about the growth in average life expectancy across Europe, whilst painting a picture of health inequalities.

* Life expectancy at birth in EU countries has increased by six years since 1980, reaching 78 years in 2007.

* On average across the 27 EU countries, life expectancy at birth for the three-year period 2005-07 stood at 74.3 years for men and 80.8 years for women. France had the highest life expectancy at birth for women (84.4 years), while Sweden had the highest life expectancy for men (78.8 years).

* Life expectancy at birth in the European Union was lowest in Romania for women (76.2 years) and Lithuania for men (65.1 years). The gap between countries with the highest and lowest life expectancies at birth is around eight years for women and 14 years for men.

The report points out that whilst life expectancy has increased, the number of "average healthy life years" in the European Union stood at 61.3 years for women and 60.1 years for men. Healthy life years at birth in 2005-07 was greatest in Malta for both men and women, and shortest in Latvia for women and Estonia for men.

The continuing gap between life expectancy and healthy life expectancy across Europe is worrying. Stefano Mazzuco and Marc Suhrcke (1), exploring the latest Eurostat Labour Force Survey, recently found health inequalities to have been increasing for most but by no means all countries and health indicators.

So whilst we should celebrate success in increasing life expectancy across Europe, we must also look at European action to tackle growing inequalities. More research is certainly needed, but so is a concerted approach to long term preventative healthcare by Governments across the EU.

Peter Barnett and David Sinclair

(Originally posted at

For more information on global ageing issues, see the ILC-Global Alliance website at

You can also follow the ILC-Global Alliance on Twitter - @ILCglobal 1)

2) Mazzuco S, Suhrcke M (2010). What does Eurostat's Labour Force Survey say about health and health inequalities in the European Union?

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Budget 2011 and Intergenerational Fairness

Budget 2011 has produced few surprises for older people. But whilst the Chancellor, George Osborne MP, has set a clear direction in terms of pensions, the intergenerational implications of the changes to both the personal tax allowance and the merger of income tax and national insurance (NI) have not attracted adequate attention.

The Chancellor confirmed (again) that the DWP will shortly publish a Green Paper to consult on options for state pension reform reform, "which will include a proposal for a single tier pension, currently estimated to be worth around £140 a week". Mr Osborne also confirmed that the Government "accepted Lord Hutton's recommendations as a basis for consultation with public sector workers".

Earlier this year, the Government asked for views on how to link possible future increases in longevity with state pension age. The Chancellor announced today that "the Government will bring forward proposals to manage future changes in the State Pension Age more automatically, including the option of a regular independent review of longevity changes". This is clearly a move towards depoliticising future increases in State Pension Age.

One issue which has emerged from the Budget which has yet to be picked up by commentators relates to the Government's long term objective to raise the income tax personal allowance to £10,000. The Chancellor today made further progress towards that goal by announcing that from April 2012, the personal allowance for under 65s increases by £1,000 to £7,475. However, missing from his statement was an announcement on the personal allowance for over 65s (apparently – if it is there, we have yet to find it). Pensioners currently have much higher tax allowances than under 65s, on the basis that we should generally avoid taxing their income twice. But with working age allowances increasing, the gap between the working age and pensioner allowances is narrowing. Is this narrowing justifiable, and is the long term aim for all taxpayers to benefit from the same level of income tax allowance?

The announcement on merging tax and NI is not an unwelcome one, given the complexity of the current tax regime. But the Government immediately announced that there would be exemptions for pensioners, who currently do not pay NI. Clearly a merged NI/income tax system at 32% would need to provide an allowance so that older people's pensions do not begin to attract a higher rate tax than they currently do. But has the Chancellor missed an opportunity here? Perhaps we need a debate about whether workers over pensionable age should pay NI. The current system means that in effect, one older employee on the same salary as another younger person, has a higher take-home salary. Its not clear that this is fair. Of course we need to encourage older workers but it isn't clear that not having to pay national insurance creates a significant incentive to older people to work longer. Perhaps part of the reason that Government has ignored this issue is that charging NI to over 65s wouldn't actually bring in a lot of money. But as the number of older workers grows, it is a sum that is likely to increase.

On both the personal allowance and the implications of the merger of NI and income tax, the Government has been clear on its intentions. But in our view, it could be clearer on the implications of these changes for both older people and in terms of intergenerational fairness.

David Sinclair and Craig Berry

(Also posted at

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Budget 2011 and Intergenerational Fairness

Budget 2011 has produced few surprises for older people. But whilst the Chancellor, George Osborne MP, has set a clear direction in terms of pensions, the intergenerational implications of the changes to both the personal tax allowance and the merger of income tax and national insurance (NI) have not attracted adequate attention.

The Chancellor confirmed (again) that the DWP will shortly publish a Green Paper to consult on options for state pension reform reform, "which will include a proposal for a single tier pension, currently estimated to be worth around £140 a week". Mr Osborne also confirmed that the Government "accepted Lord Hutton's recommendations as a basis for consultation with public sector workers".

Earlier this year, the Government asked for views on how to link possible future increases in longevity with state pension age. The Chancellor announced today that "the Government will bring forward proposals to manage future changes in the State Pension Age more automatically, including the option of a regular independent review of longevity changes". This is clearly a move towards depoliticising future increases in State Pension Age.

One issue which has emerged from the Budget which has yet to be picked up by commentators relates to the Government's long term objective to raise the income tax personal allowance to £10,000. The Chancellor today made further progress towards that goal by announcing that from April 2012, the personal allowance for under 65s increases by £1,000 to £7,475. However, missing from his statement was an announcement on the personal allowance for over 65s (apparently – if it is there, we have yet to find it). Pensioners currently have much higher tax allowances than under 65s, on the basis that we should generally avoid taxing their income twice. But with working age allowances increasing, the gap between the working age and pensioner allowances is narrowing. Is this narrowing justifiable, and is the long term aim for all taxpayers to benefit from the same level of income tax allowance?

The announcement on merging tax and NI is not an unwelcome one, given the complexity of the current tax regime. But the Government immediately announced that there would be exemptions for pensioners, who currently do not pay NI. Clearly a merged NI/income tax system at 32% would need to provide an allowance so that older people's pensions do not begin to attract a higher rate tax than they currently do. But has the Chancellor missed an opportunity here? Perhaps we need a debate about whether workers over pensionable age should pay NI. The current system means that in effect, one older employee on the same salary as another younger person, has a higher take-home salary. Its not clear that this is fair. Of course we need to encourage older workers but it isn't clear that not having to pay national insurance creates a significant incentive to older people to work longer. Perhaps part of the reason that Government has ignored this issue is that charging NI to over 65s wouldn't actually bring in a lot of money. But as the number of older workers grows, it is a sum that is likely to increase.

On both the personal allowance and the implications of the merger of NI and income tax, the Government has been clear on its intentions. But in our view, it could be clearer on the implications of these changes for both older people and in terms of intergenerational fairness.

David Sinclair and Craig Berry

Monday, 28 February 2011

Another dull running stat

Last time I did the London Marathon (2009) I ran around 228km in Jan and Feb. Or an average of about 3.86km per day

This year I've managed 381km in January and February. An average of 6.46km per day.

I'm not a lot (perhaps at all) faster. But very pleased with how much more I've managed this year.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Older consumers

I've posted my presentation (for Age UK) on older consumers up to slideshare.


Have published my presentation on "Research on ageing, making an impact". Presentation made in February 2011 for the University of Manchester/Micra.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Brighton residents - where were you?

Very much enjoyed the Brighton half marathon this morning.

I was about 10 minutes quicker than I'd planned to be (and 10 mins quicker than I achieved in my last half marathon - Run to the Beat - in October 2010) and sped up towards the end. My last km was pretty fast for me and I think I managed a negative split. Weather was good (ie not wet nor too cold) for February.Whilst I am often towards the back of these races, it remains nice to be faster than a few people five years younger (and 5 or more stone lighter) than I.

I experimented with Runkeeper ( It allowed the family to track where I was on the route at any point. And the distance was pretty accurate I think.

The race was well organised in the main although the event organisers could put on more toilets. Huge queues at the start. At the outdoor beach volleyball court near the start, two staff were in place to stop people weeing on their wall. But perhaps they would have had more success if they had just opened their doors and let people use their toilets.

But main observation was the very real lack of support from locals. Almost no clapping or support along the route (except from the family). Generally a pretty poor atmosphere.

A well managed/organised race in the main. And at least this time they hadnt run out of bananas by the time us slow people came through.

Most importantly, I had fun.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Village Hotel Leeds

My review of Village Hotel Leeds South. Just posted to tripadvisor.

The hotel benefits from a great gym and leisure facilities.

The free Wifi is very useful as the 3G/mobile signal isn't brilliant. Although the password is the same as at another hotel at this chain!

The room had an ipod Docking station. A nice touch. Would have been better if it worked however.

When I arrived there was no tv remote in the room but it only took a couple of minutes for one to be sent up.

The staff were very friendly and helpful.

The hotel had a very modern feel and was very clean.

There was a good choice at breakfast and again, the staff were quick and attentive. The breakfast coffee was much better than you get at most chains. And they give away a free Independent.

It's 6 or so miles from Leeds. Ok as a motorway stop but I generally prefer city centre hotels.

I was at the hotel for a conference. The day delegate lunch was nice and the hotel were very welcoming.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

My last two weeks.

I've decided that I'm going to take a bit of time every now and again to write about how I fill my working day. As usual, am not expecting this to be of interest to anyone but me. But I feel I need to start recording some of this. I'm hoping it will serve to help me realise I've achieve something beyond copying and pasting.

The older consumer work continues to take up a bit of time. In addition to preparation for some forthcoming presentations, I've met recently with the BRC and Age Uk to discuss a couple of forthcoming events. I brought together a group of academics to talk about research gaps and I've briefed my boss ahead of a presentation she is giving on the subject.

As usual, fundraising has also kept me busy. And the last couple of weeks pretty much every free work minute has been spent writing a proposal for BT. I spent the evening before submission date trying to add up columns of numbers in the dark with a solar powered calculator - I wasn't brilliantly efficient. Let's just say a 10 minute job took an hour.

I've also managed this week to bring in a bit of money for a small lunch event on the flu. But it's an event we've got to do quickly so I probably won't be able to actually go.

I've also drafted a proposal for a friends provident foundation funded bit of research (working with a university). But I might delay submitting as it does need more work. I've also been in touch with a friend at Shelter about a housing proposal we're seeking funding for.

Over the past year I've been working on the development of a formal relationship with the BSG. This has been coming together well since Christmas. We now have some words on paper agreed. We also have our first ILC/BSG think piece. We are exploring how we can best launch it - we'd like to do an event but time is not on our side to do something quickly. That said, I have got a journalist interested and we are planning to submit a BSG symposium on the subject.

I've done odds and ends on an esrc dissemination project we are working on. I've done a bit of editing of a report and been working with a colleague on a series of events. Am lucky that we've got a fantastic intern making the events happen.

Our new website(s) have been a source of pleasure and annoyance. On the one hand they are looking good -on the other, the delays are annoying.

I've done a little bit of work on a paper on speech therapy. Its a paper I've been working on for far too long. I've had a few more comments on it and have got a journalist interested in finding a way of getting some coverage.

Event planning has taken a bit of time over the last couple of weeks. Our social care events are coming together well and I'm pleased we've secured Dilnot for a conference in the autumn.

The last couple of weeks have also featured a bit of internal/management work including some strategy discussions and interim reviews.

I organised a Skillshare which (I think) went well. The team gave some great presentations and we had a few excellent external speakers.

The biggest bit of research I'm working on at the moment is on the oldest old. It still needs a lot of work but I'm starting to get there. I presented some ideas to our academic advisory group. I also went to a lecture organised by Kings on "living forever".

And I've done the necessary evil which is finding an hour to do an expenses claim.