The draft NHS constitution, which was open for consultation until 17 October, makes a powerful commitment against unfair discrimination of any kind.
The first principle in the draft constitution is that
“the NHS provides a comprehensive service, available to all irrespective of gender, race, disability, age, religion or sexual orientation”.
The draft constitution also says that patients
“have the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against in the provision of NHS services including on grounds of gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, disability (including learning disability or mental illness)”.
The only reason this list does not include age is that the draft constitution only refers to “rights” that are legally binding, and age discrimination is not currently prohibited by law.
However, the Government have made clear in the 2008-09 draft legislative programme that we intend to legislate on age discrimination in a forthcoming Equality Bill. Subject to parliamentary approval, age discrimination will become unlawful and will therefore automatically be covered by the right not to be unlawfully discriminated against.