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Ageism in the NHS

9th September 2006

08092006_ageism1.jpgA senior doctor argues in the BMJ that ageism is endemic in health services.

A study published in the BMJ concludes that older patients were discriminated against in the health service; they found substantial undertreatment of stroke and mini-stroke (transient ischaemic attack) in patients over the age of 80, despite good evidence that older patients benefit from treatment.

Professor John Young writes that in England, decades of health service underfunding have provided an environment in which ageism has flourished. He says that 'whenever a clinical stone is turned over, ageism is revealed'. He cites the example of cancer services, coronary care units, prevention of vascular disease, and mental health services, and now the management of transient ischaemic attacks and minor strokes.

He recommends education as the key to change, suggesting redesigning stroke services and integrating specialist and primary care responses to the management of transient ischaemic attacks.  This would be a similar approach to that for coronary heart disease, which, he says has 'led to a welcome reduction in the degree of related ageism'.

He adds that tackling institutionalised age discrimination will require national leadership, as ageism will always prosper when resources are inadequate for the target population.

Although some progress has been made in England through the National Service Framework for Older People since 2001, some will argue that ageism is so deeply embedded in our health service that policy initiatives will never represent more than a tinkering round the edges, he says.

He concludes by saying "Don’t be surprised if older people lose trust in their health service and lobby for protection through anti-discrimination legislation. The result would indeed be a patient led health service".

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Comments

Gwendoline Harlow

Monday 11th September 2006 @ 19:40

Ageism is not confined to the health service.
Modern society, rather than revering experience and wisdom, seems to consider that all older people are mentally deficient. Has there been too much portrayal of dementia? Too much joking?


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