Tackling age discrimination must be pushed higher up the health and social care agenda, says The King's Fund

Older people could miss out on vital health and social care services because of a lack of expertise in identifying age discrimination, says a guide from The King's Fund published today.

Auditing Age Discrimination, by Ros Levenson, says tackling age discrimination is too low on the agenda for many health and social care organisations and that staff and managers struggle to recognise ageist practices.

Author Ros Levenson said:

'Health and social care organisations need to respond better to the needs and rights of the UK's growing population of older people, who must be able to access services on the basis of clinical need and on equal terms with younger people.

'While some changes will require significant resources, many can be achieved more simply by treating older people with dignity and directly involving them on scrutiny groups. Older people and the health and social care staff that look after them have a great deal to say about access to services and the quality of those services.'

Tessa Harding, head of policy at Help the Aged, said:

'We know there is extensive age discrimination in the NHS and social care and that this can go unrecognised. This practical guidance will help managers to identify and act on ageist practices, enabling older people access to the care and treatment they need.

'The Department of Health is the first branch of government to take active steps to root out age discrimination in public services, so health service managers are breaking new ground. This document will be an important resource both to them and to other public service managers.'

Auditing Age Discrimination offers practical guidance on how organisations can work to eradicate age discrimination and make change happen at a local level. It concludes that older people have a central role to play in identifying age discrimination.

The guide draws on the experiences of health and social care staff, older people, policy-makers and local campaigners to offer clear guidance on:

  • how to gather and assess evidence of age discrimination
  • who to involve in the process
  • what kinds of evidence to look for
  • where to look.

Read the report: Auditing Age Discrimination

Notes to editors: 

As part of the research The King's Fund visited several scrutiny groups during 2002 and interviewed people who were working on age discrimination in various parts of the country. In addition, the King's Fund held three seminars that were attended by a wide range of health and social care professionals, older people and people from relevant voluntary organisations.

For review copies or interviews with the author, please contact Daniel Reynolds on 020 7307 2581 or 07831 554927.