NHS in Britain discriminates against the elderly

New research in Britain has revealed quite shocking information regarding the treatment of senior citizens in the health system.

A newly released study shows that doctors and heart specialists who care for the elderly were all found to be influenced by the patients' age when making their recommendations; it seems the age cut-off for comparison was 65.

The study found that too often resources are limited and doctors have to make difficult decisions.

Professor Ann Bowling of University College London, who led the study suspects many may see older people as less deserving and it appears that some doctors deny older people treatments they would offer younger patients.

The researchers say the results showed doctors in the National Health system were ageist.

The research team questioned 90 general practitioners (GPs) and consultants about the treatment of 72 patients aged 45 to 92 with angina problems and found that almost half of the doctors treated the over-65s differently.

The researchers found that 46% of GPs and elderly care doctors, known as gerontologists, and 48% of cardiologists acted in this way and they say this is an indication that age discrimination in the NHS remains an issue.

Older patients were less likely to be prescribed a statin to lower their cholesterol, referred to a cardiologist, or given an angiogram or revascularisation, a procedure to open up the blood vessels; yet they were significantly more likely to have their medication changed and told to come back at a later date.

The doctors excused their behaviour in treating older patients differently because of the patients' wishes, potential complications and the frailty of the individual concerned.

But Professor Bowling says even when factors such as the risk treatment presents to elderly people were taken into account, doctors were being influenced by the age of patients and she believes it reflects society's attitude to older people.

Charities which represent elderly people have been angered by the study results as government guidelines issued six years demanded that treatment decisions should not be based on age.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of News Medical.
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