The issue is more important to them than the Government’s flagship policy of reducing waiting times for treatment.

Despite the millions of pounds ploughed into the strategy Help the Aged and Age Concern found that elderly people were more concerned about waiting times when they pressed the call button on a ward.

They told the charities of feeling humiliated and embarrassed when the delays had led to problems, such as getting to a lavatory on time.

One man, from Luton, outside London, said: “I called and called for someone to come and take me to the lavatory, but after almost 20 minutes of waiting I embarrassed myself in bed.

“I see staff all the time in hospital," he added, "it’s not that there is no one around.”

The report also calls for ministers to keep their pledge to impose financial penalties on hospitals which fail to deliver same-sex accommodation, which the charities said was “fundamental” to patient privacy.

Last year ministers unveiled a £100m project designed to help hospitals cut the number of mixed-sex wards in the NHS.

But many Government targets failed to address what mattered most to older people, the charities warned.

The report found that one in three felt they had been left out of vital decisions about their care.

While vast majority preferred to be treated by the same doctor as much as possible, different Government initiatives had made it more difficult for older people to see their "preferred" GP and to organise home visits if needed, the report warns.

A pledge to remove GP practice boundaries should ensure that older people can continue to visit their family doctor, it claims.

The charities also called for all care home residents to be able to stay with their own family doctor if they wished.

At the moment many are forced to register with the homes' GP.

The survey is based on in-depth interviews with 20 volunteers, who had an average age of 80.

Andrew Harrop, head of public policy for Age Concern and Help the Aged, said: “A world class health service should be one that responds to the needs and preferences of those who need it most.

“Older people are the largest users of healthcare services, yet we are a long way off from seeing their needs at the heart of decision making in the NHS.

“Our research shows that above all, older people’s definition of quality does not always match the performance regime laid out by politicians.”

More than two-thirds of people aged 85 and over in Britain have a disability or a long-standing illness.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "The Government is determined to stamp out ageism. We commissioned a national age equality review to seriously look at age discrimination in the NHS and social care to meet the requirements in the Equality Bill, which bans age discrimination in social care and healthcare.

"The review team produced a report in October which showed that social care and health service systems have made enormous strides in tackling age discrimination but there is still more that needs to be done.

"The views of the respondents to this consultation will be vital to help us ensure that the ban on age discrimination helps us improve services for everyone.”

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