Legislation needed to stop unfair age discrimination, says The King's Fund

New legislation is needed to tackle age discrimination in health and social care services, says a King's Fund study published today.

Old Habits Die Hard: Tackling age discrimination in health and social care, by Emilie Roberts and Linda Seymour, shows that managers in NHS and social care organisations struggle to prevent discrimination on the grounds of age. It concludes that the government's objective of eradicating ageist practices from the NHS will not be achieved unless local managers are given more help to implement the policy.

The study is based on a survey of managers in hospitals, primary care groups, community trusts and social services departments. It shows that while the majority support moves to combat age discrimination, they do not have the tools for the job. Many are not sure how to recognise age discrimination in practice, nor how to judge whether age-related policies and practices are ever justifiable.

The main barriers to tackling ageism are a lack of resources to implement the National Service Framework for Older People; widespread ageism in society as a whole; and a legacy of discrimination in the welfare state.

Janice Robinson, The King's Fund director of health and social care, said:

'Combatting age discrimination is a complex and uncomfortable process for public service managers. Efforts to eradicate ageist practices must be backed up with funding for staff education and training; a clear definition of what constitutes unacceptable behaviour; and a new law to make discrimination on the basis of old age unlawful.

'Legislation by itself does not make discrimination go away. But it will at least give public service managers the incentive and the leverage to make meaningful changes in their organisations.'

Read the report: Old Habits Die Hard: Tackling age discrimination in health and social care

Notes to editors: 

Old Habits Die Hard: Tackling age discrimination in health and social care, by Emilie Roberts and Linda Seymour, is available from The King's Fund bookshop on 020 7307 2591 or on our online bookshop.

Emilie Roberts is project officer at the Commission for Health Improvement. She was a research officer at the King's Fund at the time of the survey.

Linda Seymour is Research Fellow in Health and Social Policy at Brighton University and a non-executive board member of South Downs Health (community and mental health trust).

For a review copy or interviews with Janice Robinson please contact Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581.