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NHS 'drops ball' over mental health

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People over 65 with mental health problems suffer discrimination in the NHS due to their age, often finding themselves excluded from specialist services, according to the Healthcare Commission.

The commission study found that older people were often not given access to out-of-hours services or those aimed at helping people suffering a mental health crisis.

Such services mostly took referrals for people under the age of 65, or for conditions other than dementia, it said.

‘Even when there was no explicit policy about discrimination on the basis of age, staff often reported that although the rules did not prevent referring older people, in actual practice accessing the full range of services for older people was often not possible,’ the commission report added.

‘There appeared to be a reluctance to refer and a reluctance to accept referrals, partly due to workload capacity and the age-appropriateness of the service being offered.’

Researchers for the commission’s Equality in Later Life report spoke to more than 600 people, including staff, carers, patients and social workers.

Is it estimated that around 40% of older people who visit their GP have a mental health problem, as do 50% of older people in hospital and 60% of those in care homes.

More than a quarter of admissions to mental health inpatient services are for people over the age of 65.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • There seems also to be a reluctance to treat elderly people as quickly as younger patients. From personal experience (elderly patients speaking to me), they have felt as if they've frequently not been listened to by their GP's, and that it has taken alot longer to be treated.
    This has an even worse effect if that elderly person is mentally ill, as it is more difficult for them to get their views across and they feel restricted and frustrated.
    If the NHS is so 'patient-centred' why is this still happening?

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