SECOND CLASS CITIZENS! – elderly being mistreated

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Public services often fail to consider the special needs of older people, who are being treated like ‘second class citizens’, Age Concern said yesterday.

It was commenting on a new report by the Healthcare Commission, the Audit Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

This found ‘evidence of a lack of priority being given to the needs of older people when planning and commissioning services’.

It found: ‘Local authorities were not considering the needs of older people in planning public transport, when a high proportion of older people do not drive.

‘And podiatry and foot care services were given a very low priority from primary care trusts, resulting in older people losing mobility and becoming socially isolated.’

There was: ‘Evidence of a lack of dignity and respect in the way older people are treated when in hospital.

‘Many older people experienced poorly managed discharge after being rushed through the system, repetitive moving from one ward to another to free up surgical beds, and having meals taken away before they can eat them due to a lack of support at meal times.

‘A lack of consultation by service providers with older people to find out exactly what they want.

‘Ninety five per cent of older people surveyed had not been asked their views on NHS or council services in the last year, and 80 per cent did not think that they influenced the planning of services.

‘Mental health services for older people were particularly poor. Older people reported a noticeable difference in their experiences of accessing services as they reached and passed 65.

‘Out-of-hours services for psychiatric advice and crisis management are much less developed than for working age adults, and older people with dementia experience unacceptably long waits for specialist care.’

Gordon Lishman, director-general of Age Concern England, said: ‘Sadly, too many older people in need of public services are currently treated as second-class citizens.’

Paul Cann, Director of Policy at Help the Aged, said elderly people ‘are being shunted out of hospital beds while ill and frail and placed into care homes, which are not geared up to cater for their acute medical needs.’

He added: ‘It is troubling to see that mental health services for older people remain the Cinderella service of an already neglected part of our health system.’

Cann concluded: ‘That we allow our elders to suffer at a time they need help most, stifled by an inequitable system, cannot be condoned.’