NHS Age Discrimination Concerns Need To Be Addressed

Lawyers Call For Action After Dr Foster Report Reveals Wide Variation In Treatment Of Elderly Patients


More needs to be done to investigate concerns raised in the latest Dr Foster report that older patients are not always getting access to the appropriate treatment in hospitals, according to medical negligence lawyers at Irwin Mitchell.

Among the key findings in the report was that the level of treatment provided to older people tends to be at a lower level that offered to younger patients.

For example, it was revealed that there was a significant variation in the number of older people being offered Percutaneous Coronary Intervention (PCI) treatment, an emergency procedure given to heart attack sufferers.

There is also a variation within Trusts amongst older women being offered breast reconstruction after a mastectomy, despite NICE guidelines saying all female patients should be offered such work unless it is specifically deemed unsuitable.

In both cases the report stated that while older patients may not always be suitable for either treatment, the major variations seen across hospitals raised concerns of age discrimination.

David Body, an expert in medical law and patients’ rights at Irwin Mitchell, said: “The  priority for the NHS is to ensure that patients get access to vital treatment when they need it, regardless of their age or where they live.

“While in some cases the treatments included in this report may not be deemed appropriate for older people with certain health conditions, the variations between hospitals should be more closely investigated to ensure patients are being assessed in the right manner and given access to the care they require.

“We have seen numerous cases in the past when hospitals have failed patients or they have been denied access to care for reasons which are simply unacceptable.

“All patients across the country should have access to the same high standards of care and access to such treatment should never be dependent on age. It is vital that further examination of this issue is undertaken to provide reassurances that this data has not uncovered a trend of discrimination which could be ultimately impacting on the safety and treatment received by many elderly patients.”