No respect for eldersOlder people treated as '2nd class', say watchdogs

27 March 2006

 

A walking stick held in someone's hands

England's public services are treating older people as 'second-class citizens', a report by three independent watchdogs has found.

People over the age of 50 are the biggest users of health and social services, yet their needs are being sidelined in the planning of these services, the report claims. The watchdogs also found a lack of dignity and respect in the way older people are treated in hospital.

One of the worst areas was mental health services, which deteriorated as people passed the age of 65, the report said. It also highlighted a lack of consideration given to older people's needs when planning and developing public transport, which can lead to isolation.

Report by health and inspection commissions

The joint investigation by the Healthcare Commission, the Audit Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection, was carried out five years into a ten-year government plan to improve services for people over the age of 50.

Which? Principal Public Affairs Officer Emma Harrison said: 'Which? hears far too often that people are treated with a lack of respect. This is why we've agreed to be part of the Dignity Guardians group set up by the Department of Health.

'While the clinical side of care is important, we think that ensuring the "softer" side of care is essential - how someone is addressed, enquiries as to whether their needs are being addressed to they are to what food they are offered can make all the difference to their sense of well being.'

Failed to reach standards

The report said that, while some services had improved since the government published its blueprint for older people's services in 2001, progress had been slow in certain areas of the country. None of the ten communities across England whose public services were scrutinised had reached all the government's standards for older people's services.

However, the report did find that steps had been taken to address age discrimination in public services. More people who had suffered a stroke had access to good quality hospital care, and more people were being supported to allow them to live at home.

Gordon Lishman, Director-General of Age Concern England, said it was 'shocking' that so many social services departments were still failing to meet the needs of older people.

He said: 'Sadly, too many older people in need of public services are currently treated as second-class citizens. Mental health services for older people are chronically under-funded, leaving many to struggle with no support at all.'