Age Discrimination 'A Problem In NHS'

Age Discrimination Is Preventing Older People From Accessing Vital Surgery

04.07.2014

A new report has revealed that many older people are prevented from accessing potentially vital surgery because of age discrimination across the NHS.

The Royal College of Surgeons worked together with Age UK to look at surgery rates for six common procedures in English over-65-year-olds, reports the BBC.

After assessing thousands of records over a number of weeks, the organisations found a "worrying" difference in how many operations were done on people over-65 and over-75.

While the Royal College of Surgeons and Age UK said that this variation could be explained by factors they had not considered, they wanted clarification from the NHS as to why older people were not being put forward for potentially life-saving surgery.

One particular issue involved breast tissue removal for people with cancer. In some areas of England, people were 37 times more likely to be prescribed this surgery than in others, while significantly fewer operations were undertaken on people aged over 75.

Martin McShane, NHS England's director for people with long-term health conditions, said: "NHS England is committed to ensuring older patients have equal access to treatment which should always be based on what is right for each individual patient, on their informed preferences, not their age."

However, Caroline Abrahams of Age UK claimed the NHS could be doing better in making surgery more readily available for older people, as at present some people felt they could not access the treatment they believed would prolong or improve their lives.

This is not the first time that age discrimination in the NHS has been raised as an issue.

In 2012, a King's Fund investigation found that many treatable conditions among older people - including incontinence and depression - were not being tended to by doctors.

Further to this, the study found that some doctors were not even testing for serious diseases like cancer as they thought that treatment would not be an option due to their age.

Expert Opinion
Patients of all ages deserve to be able to access timely treatment through the NHS, so the concerns raised in this report and other studies in recent months regarding age discrimination are simply unacceptable.

"It is vital that health authorities act quickly to investigate the concerns raised in this report to gain a better understanding of these variations and why older people may not be getting access to the surgery they need.

"The consequences of such problems are significant and we see numerous cases when people have suffered or died as a result of delays in accessing vital treatment and support. No patients should face discrimination and it is vital that steps are taken to address this issue."
Mandy Luckman, Partner