The Liberal Democrats have proposed to set up a ‘Dilnot style’ cross-party commission on how the NHS can meet the needs of an ageing society.

The plan is contained in a policy paper Age Ready Britain – Realising the Potential of an Ageing Society, which was published to coincide with the party’s annual conference this week.

The commission would “analyse future demand for health and social care, and make recommendations for how best to meet the needs of an ageing society”. It would be expected to engage extensively with the public, civil society organisations, and lead a national debate on “how we make the UK age ready”.

The Lib Dems are also proposing a second commission on supporting longer working lives.

Paul Burstow, the former Lib Dem health minister who remains close to the development of party health policy, told HSJ that demographic factors and funding pressures would “require a consensus that goes beyond political parties, and has to engage with wider civil society”. He said the commission would have to engage with communities around the country, rather than “just the usual suspects in Westminster”.

Paul Burstow

The commission would engage with communities around the country, Paul Burstow said

And, he said, the commission would have to be established before the 2015 parliamentary summer recess, and be working through the autumn 2015. This would enable it to influence a government spending review for 2016-17 and beyond, making it an early priority for the next government.

The commission’s remit should be to establish a “common understanding” of how an ageing population with rising levels of multiple long term conditions can best be served, while maintaining reliable emergency services. It should also describe how the system should change to meet shifting population demands, how those changes can be brought about, and what the implications would be for the NHS estate.

“Whether it’s a coalition or majority government of whatever hue after the election, they need to understand that getting cross-party and wider civil society buy-in is the best way to manage change in a successful way,” Mr Burstow said.