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'Ageist' doctors deny treatments

14th February 2007

The NHS has been accused of ageism after new research revealed doctors deny older patients treatment.

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The research from the University College London found almost half of doctors distinguished between the over-65s and their younger patients when it came to treating angina.

Older patients were found to be less likely to be prescribed cholesterol-lowering statins or be referred to a cardiologist. Those who were referred were less likely to be offered surgery.

But the research showed older patients were more likely to be given a change in medication and told to come back for a follow up appointment.

The research team created 72 fictional patients aged 45 to 92 with a range of heart problems and spoke to more than 160 GPs and hospital consultants about treatment. Even allowing for risk factors doctors were still influenced by age.

Doctors defended their decisions, which they said were based on clinical reasons such as risk of complications, as well as the patients’ own wishes.

The government issued guidance against using age to determine treatment six years ago and campaigners say this research shows age is still a major determining factor for treatment.

The results are published in the Quality and Safety in Health Care journal.










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