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Health Services: Age Discrimination

Volume 461: debated on Wednesday 6 June 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps she is taking to tackle age discrimination in the provision of health services; what targets she has set for this work; and what progress has been made towards such targets. (139772)

[holding answer 4 June 2007]: Action to tackle age discrimination in access to health and social care has been a central aspect of the national service framework (NSF) for older people. The NSF for older people recognised that age discrimination in access to health and social care exists. It made the clear statement that age discrimination would not be tolerated and set out the developing actions to address this.

The Healthcare Commission report, “Living Well in Later Life”, published in March 2006, found that explicit age discrimination had declined since the NSF was published, as a result of national health service trusts auditing policies on access to services and social services departments reviewing their eligibility criteria for social care services. In the first phase of the NSF for older people, there was a significant improvement in access to services, including a more than 100 per cent. rise in breast screening of the over-65s, increased hip replacements and cataract operations.

In April 2006 the National Director for Older People, Professor Ian Philp, published the second phase of the NSF, “A New Ambition for Old Age”, encouraging the involvement of older people in service planning and also focusing on improving the integration of services and the promotion of healthy ageing. The report recognised that huge strides have been made in improving the health of older people. Death rates for heart disease, stroke and cancer among older people are down. Discrimination in treatment is now less likely. For example, heart surgery in the over 75s has risen from 2 per cent. to 10 per cent.

On 27 January 2007, Ian Philp launched “A Recipe for Care—Not a Single Ingredient”. This report sets out the challenge ahead in looking after older people and why services need to change to ensure older people get the best possible care.

Departmental policy and guidance requires the assessment and provision of services to be undertaken based on need. We expect services to promote independence, choice and control as well as safety. We make it clear that all staff should treat older people with dignity and respect, whether it is in a hospital, care home or their own home.

The Government are currently developing the Discrimination Law Review Green Paper, which will seek to address age discrimination in all public services.