Dear Miriam: NHS Must Not Fail the Elderly; HEALTH

Article excerpt

Byline: DR. MIRIAM STOPPARD

I was dismayed to hear that half the doctors specialising in care for older people believe the NHS is "institutionally ageist".

Charity Help the Aged polled 200 members of the British Geriatrics Society and found two thirds thought older people are less likely to have their symptoms fully investigated.

More than 70 per cent said the elderly are less likely to be referred for essential treatments, and over half the doctors themselves are worried about how the service will treat them in old age.

What an indictment. This shows a worrying lack of respect for our ageing population. Perhaps many in the medical profession feel that referring older people for expensive treatments is a waste of money.

Maybe older people are less inclined to assert themselves.

Care and respect

But the NHS should be investing in older people. More than 20million people in the UK are aged over 50 and the total is rising as we all live longer.

Older people's wealth of experience means they can still make a valuable contribution to society. And today's over-60s are the only group not suffering from the obesity epidemic - so they'll cost the NHS much less than younger generations.

After a lifetime of hard work and national insurance contributions, the old deserve the same care and respect as the young.

Age discrimination legislation will be broadened in the forthcoming Equality Bill but it may take more than a year before it's approved. In the meantime, here's how to make your doctor listen.

Take a younger person with you

This shows that someone else is taking a keen interest in your health and welfare and will push for the best treatment if need be. The doctor will be less inclined to fob you off. …