Plan to end age discrimination in NHS is launched

BMJ 2001; 322 doi: (Published 31 March 2001) Cite this as: BMJ 2001;322:751
  1. Zosia Kmietowicz
  1. London

    The first national plan to end age discrimination in the NHS and improve the quality of care provided for older people was launched this week by the Department of Health.

    The National Service Framework for Older People gives a frank acknowledgement that the NHS has been riddled with discrimination against older people in the past and confirms the government's commitment to tackle it head-on to raise standards in the clinical and social care provided for older people.

    At the heart of the document, which applies to England only, is a set of standards to overhaul several key services in the NHS so that older people receive the same treatment as those aged under 65 for conditions such as cancer and heart disease. Special measures are also being introduced to reduce disabilities from stroke and falls and to ensure older people have effective treatment and support for mental health problems.

    More operations for older people are planned over the next three years, including 70000 more cataract operations, 16000 more hip and knee replacements, and 3000 more coronary revascularisation procedures. To help achieve the ambitious plans an extra 7500 consultant posts are due to be created by 2004, including, as part of the NHS Plan, about 140 in old age medicine and 85 in old age psychiatry.

    Funding for the new standards will come out of the £1.4bn ($2.1bn) earmarked for the health and social care of older people announced in the NHS Plan. However, a further £120m is to be made available over the next three years to refurbish many of the old-style “Nightingale” wards to allow older people more privacy.

    “The [new framework] will mean that a person can expect to receive high quality care and treatment, regardless of their age or where they live. This will make age discrimination a thing of the past,” said Professor Ian Philp, the national director for older people's services.

    “People in older age groups often have complex health needs, including physical, mental and social aspects,” he said. “Our services need to mirror that situation. This will mean much closer working between health and social care partners.”

    The standards will be delivered locally and monitored by independent bodies, including the Commission for Health Improvement, the Social Services Inspectorate, and the National Care Standards Commission. (See p 789.)

    The National Service Framework for Older People can be accessed at

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