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Older stroke patients suffer NHS ageism, says study

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Older stroke patients are not getting the same level of care as younger sufferers due to ageism in the NHS, research has claimed.

A study, published in the Postgraduate Medical Journal, found patients over 75 years old were less likely to be given the appropriate diagnostic tests and lifestyle advice compared to younger patients.

Research looking at 379 patients referred to a specialist rapid access clinic for suspected minor strokes found younger patients were scanned more quickly and were five times more likely to be given a brain (MRI) scan to check for blockages and bleeds.

Only one in 20 (4%) of those aged over 75 were given an MRI scan compared with one in four (26%) of the younger patients.

Procedures to widen the arteries that supply parts of the brain were given to older patients much more quickly. But Doppler ultrasound checks on the speed of blood flow in these arteries were more common in younger patients, with nine out of 10 (92%) patients under the age of 75 given the tests, compared with just over three out of four (77%) patients over the age of 75.

The authors say: ‘The results of this study possibly reflect negative views, attitudes and behaviour of healthcare professionals towards older patients. Rationing of care on the basis of age has occurred in other medical areas.’

Postgrad Med J 2009; 85: 115-118

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