Andy Burnham, the health secretary, today admitted that age discrimination in the NHS exists and needs to be stamped out.
It comes as the Department of Health prepares to publish a report which is expected to detail how older people get a worse deal from the health service.
It is understood there is particular concern about the treatment given to those over 65 suffering from mental health problems. Cancer survival rates are also lower among the elderly with patients’ groups often raising concerns about referral times.
Andy Burnham, the Health Secretary, will also use a major speech on social care to reverse the plan to scrap the disability living allowance, which would have saved the Government £4.4 billion – money which was earmarked to help meet the cost of the country’s burgeoning social care bill.
The report into age equality by Sir Ian Carruthers was commissioned by Alan Johnson before he was moved in June’s Cabinet reshuffle. It was prompted by fears among patients' groups that the elderly are discriminated against in the NHS and social care services.
A survey earlier this year found that hundreds of doctors specialising in the care of older people believe the NHS is institutionally ageist.
Age Concern claims that mental care services provide the clearest examples of age discrimination in the NHS which, a spokesman said, leaves many people undiagnosed and untreated simply because of their age.
A report earlier this month by the Royal College of Psychiatrists found that tens of thousands of people over the age of 65 are being denied access to specialist mental health services because of ‘arbitrary’ age limits.
Under current mental health someone who is 65 years old can receive a wide range of support through adult mental health services, but a person who is only one year older may be placed in an older people’s service where this same support is not available.
The Equality Bill will ensure that the NHS has to comply to age discrimination rules by 2012, but Age Concerns wants it implemented sooner.
Mr Burnham will use today’s speech to commit to “ruling out any age discrimination,” a source said.
He will say: “As we live longer and as the NHS helps us live longer, we have to look at different ways the NHS can help older people.”
A recent report showed that the UK’s survival rates for older cancer patients are below other European countries, prompting elderly action groups to urge Sir Ian to take a serious look at cancer treatment.
Mr Burnham will also say that he will not go ahead with a plan to scrap the disability living allowance. The move had been suggested in the green paper on social care which is part of the Government’s attempt to tackle the problem of the costs of long term care.
The move to more means-tested disability benefit was dropped after outrage from disability charities. The allowance is paid to 1.6million pensioners with disabilities at the rate of £47.10 or £70.35 a week depending on the extent of their needs.
But the reversal raises fresh questions about how future social care will be funded. The green paper put the additional costs of a new “comprehensive” care system at £3.4 billion in 2014 rising to £3.8billion in 2024.
Last night the Conservatives claimed there is a £4.6 billion “black hole” in Gordon Brown’s flagship health plans.
Andrew Lansley, the shadow health secretary, said parliamentary answers revealed that Labour does not know where it will find the money to pay for high-profile pledges on social care for the elderly.
Mr Lansley said: “The Government is unable to explain where £4.6 billion of this funding will come from.”
And he will tell the social care conference: “With everyday that passes Gordon Brown’s administration looks more and more like it has run out of ideas and run out of steam.
“Labour’s new health policies have no basis in reality and they have no idea how they will pay for them.”
Article from The Telegraph