Headlines: November 14th, 2000

New research indicates that age discrimination is rife in many areas of health and social care.Discrimination is sometimes explicit, with some NHS services applying age restrictions. More often, discrimination is subtle and implicit, in a general lack of priority given to older people’s services, according to a new briefing prepared by the Kings Fund.

The paper also claims that health and social services for older people often employ less well-qualified workers than other services. Such services are commonly characterised by slow response times and negative attitudes towards users. Clinical trials often exclude older people, creating a lack of proven treatments for common diseases among older people. And many GPs are reluctant to provide annual health checks for people over 75, missing a valuable opportunity to identify potential health problems and to give advice on healthy living.

The findings come just after Professor Ian Philp has been appointed as National Director for Older People’s Services, and indicates the size of the task he faces in driving out ageism, as set out in the NHS Plan.

The recommendation is for some legislation to ban unfair age discrimination; increased public spending on older people’s services; better training and support for workers; and the involvement of older people in service planning.

The briefing, Age discrimination in health and social care is available on the King’s Fund web site www.kingsfund.org.uk.