In my blog of 13th June 2012, “Age Old Excuses”, I highlighted that, as from this month, elderly patients will be able to sue those who provide services, including healthcare, if they are denied the service on the basis of their age alone.
I also commented that this can only be correct.
This view has now been reinforced by the Royal College of Surgeons and Age UK in their report “Access All Ages”.
From the outset it is important to recognise that there may well be valid reasons that an older person does not undergo surgery. As we age, we inevitably become less fit and our bodies wear out making us less suitable candidates for surgery.
However, the Report recognises that “while there may be legitimate clinical reasons why an older person may not benefit from surgery, it remains the case that some patients may be missing out.”
“Decisions may not always be made on the basis of a comprehensive and objective assessment, but on a series of assumptions about fitness in older age.”
Worryingly, particularly in this current age of austerity, the report recognises that it may be an excuse not to operate on older patients where budgets are tight.
There has been much comment on the report. Health Minister Dan Poulter says that there is “absolutely no place” for this attitude in the NHS, whilst the NHS Confederation’s chief executive Mike Farrar has stated that “… the NHS and its staff should close the door to such unacceptable behaviour.”
So, two weeks into its implementation, this law is receiving universal support publically. Whether it is implemented in an effective way by those at the coalface remains to be seen.