Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will today cite the case of a pensioner who lay dead in his Leith flat for three years as he called on the public to take better care of older relatives.
In a speech to the Local Government Association’s (LGA) annual conference, Mr Hunt will say around eight “lonely funerals” – funded by councils because no friends or family are there to pay for them – take place every day.
He will refer to last week’s discovery of the badly-decomposed remains of Henry Summers, which were found in a top-floor flat on Easter Road.
Police made the grim find when they broke down the man’s door on Wednesday morning in response to concerns raised by his GP surgery.
But local authorities, including NHS Lothian and the city council, have so far been unable to explain how his disappearance went unnoticed for so long.
It is understood that Mr Summers, thought to be in his mid-60s to early-70s, had been discharged from hospital more than three years ago.
Mr Hunt will highlight figures that show that one-in-ten older people do not see their family even monthly, and that in just five years’ time there will be a million more over-70s – one third of them living alone – meaning the situation is only likely to get worse.
He was due to say: “Shockingly, in Edinburgh last week, police had to break down the door of a top-floor flat because it had been so long since the door had been opened, and pick their way through mounds of unopened mail, to reach the body of a man who may have been left undiscovered in his flat for up to three years.”
A neighbour in the same tenement block told the News last week that he hadn’t seen the pensioner since February 2012, when it is understood he was taken to hospital.
And the city council confirmed that Mr Summers was not one of its tenants. It is thought that some of his bills may have continued to have been paid by direct debit after his death.