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13.06.12

Elderly people could sue NHS

Age discrimination in the NHS is to be made illegal from October, the care minister Paul Burstow announced yesterday. Elderly people could have the right to sue if they have been denied care on the basis of age alone.

The legislation applies to hospitals inEngland,WalesandScotland, and follows a Home Office consultation on the issue.

Age discrimination is already unlawful in the workplace, but until now there was no equivalent legal requirement on public and private services. The Government said that this has led to inconsistent practice in some cases.

A series of recent reports have highlighted poor quality care for elderly patients, with treatable conditions sometimes ignored. The new law means that clinical decisions must be based on clinical need and how fit someone is, regardless of their age.

Burstow said: “We know that older people are not always treated with the dignity and respect they deserve because of ageist attitudes – this will not be tolerated. Our population is ageing as more of us live longer. The challenge for the NHS is to look beyond a person's date of birth and meet the needs of older people as individuals.”

Michelle Mitchell, charity director-general of Age UK, said: “We hope the new law which will apply to the NHS, social care and other services will prevent older people being denied proper treatment because of their age.

“It sends a clear message to service providers that discrimination law will in future also protect older people.”

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