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NHS age discrimination ban imposed
Age discrimination against NHS patients is to be made illegal.
Ministers have confirmed that denying drugs or treatments on the grounds of age will be outlawed from October. The ban will apply to Britain but not Northern Ireland.
The move means that older people may be able to sue the NHS to challenge decisions that they feel are discriminatory because of their age. It is also likely to create extra demand on NHS resources.
There have been a series of reports suggesting that older people suffer abuse in the NHS and that doctors discriminate against elderly patients in the allocation of treatments.
NHS staff will also have a duty to show they have considered the wellbeing and dignity of older people.
Care Minister Paul Burstow said: "We know that older people are not always treated with the dignity and respect they deserve because of ageist attitudes - this will not be tolerated. Our population is ageing as more of us live longer. The challenge for the NHS is to look beyond a person's date of birth and meet the needs of older people as individuals."
Age discrimination in the workplace is already unlawful, but until now there was no equivalent legal requirement on public and private services. This has led to inconsistent practices and unfair treatment, with the needs of older people in particular being ignored, the Government said.
There will be specific exceptions from the new law, for example insurance companies will still be able to use age when assessing risk and deciding prices and travel operators will be able to offer free bus travel for over-60s. The exceptions provide clarity for private and public sector organisations - and their customers - over exactly where the line should be drawn, the Government said.
Age UK charity director-general Michelle Mitchell said: "We welcome the overdue news that the ban on age discrimination in goods and services will finally become law in October. Age UK has long campaigned for this recognition that discrimination based on your date of birth is as indefensible in 21st century Britain as prejudice on the basis of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. We hope the new law, which will apply to the NHS, social care and other services, will prevent older people being denied proper treatment because of their age. It sends a clear message to service providers that discrimination law will in future also protect older people."
Home Secretary and Minister for Women and Equalities Theresa May added: "We want to make sure everyone can realise their potential; part of this means ensuring people are treated fairly regardless of their age. Having consulted widely and considered the evidence carefully, we have found that there are some areas where older people are at particular risk of unfair treatment. So we are acting to put that right. This legislation will be targeted, fair and proportionate. The vast majority of businesses and organisations will be able to continue to operate as usual and certain areas will be exempt from the ban altogether. We are confident that the action we are taking strikes the right balance between business and consumers' interests."