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Friday, 3 November, 2000, 12:14 GMT
NHS appoints anti-ageism czar
Elderly people
There are concerns that elderly people get a raw deal from the NHS
A National Director of Older People's Services has been appointed by Health Secretary Alan Milburn to stamp out ageism in the NHS.

Professor Ian Philp will take on the new role as part of the government's plans to modernise NHS services for older people.

A blueprint on how older people should be treated by the NHS is due for publication this winter.


Quality of care should not be based on age

Health Secretary Alan Milburn
Ministers promised action earlier this year after the charity Age Concern claimed that doctors were deciding not to revive seriously ill elderly patients.

Age Concern highlighted the case of cancer patient Jill Baker, who discovered that, had she fallen unconscious in hospital, doctors would have made no efforts to resuscitate her.

Mrs Baker only found out after she left hospital that the comment "inappropriate for resuscitation" had been written on her notes.

Neither she nor her husband had been approached or asked for their views on the subject.

Announcing the appointment of Professor Philp, Mr Milburn said: Alan Milburn said: "The National Director will have the key task of tackling any ageist practices in the NHS.

"He firmly believes, as we all do, that quality of care should not be based on age.

"Put simply, if you are ill the question of age should not come into the equation - all that should matter is finding the best way to make sure a person gets the right care, at the right time."

The blueprint - or National Service Framework (NSF) for Older People - will set, for the first time, national standards of care for older people and tackle age discrimination:

  • NHS bodies will have to ensure that their policies and practices explicitly prohibit age discrimination
  • Patients and their carers will be made aware of how to complain if they feel they have faced age discrimination.
  • NHS bodies will be required to act on any complaints and report annually on their resolution
Exciting challenge

Professor Philp said his new role would be an "exciting challenge".

"There is much to do and, in order to secure a long term change, we must all address the way we think about older people and their health needs."

Professor Philp said he had three priorities:

  • making sure that everyone, regardless of age, has fair access to services and receives treatment on the basis of need
  • treating each older person as individual with their own specific, and often complex, needs
  • ensuring that there is an integrated approach where agencies work together rather than separately, to provide the highest levels of care
One of Professor Philp's first duties will be to chair the older people's taskforce which has been set up to drive forward the implementation of the NHS Plan.

The first meeting will take place next week.

Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: "Age Concern has put the spotlight on age discrimination in the NHS and welcomes the Government's appointment of Professor Sir Ian Philp.

"He faces a tough task rooting out the ageist attitudes which are endemic in the NHS.

"A challenge facing him is persuading the NHS, social services and the private and voluntary sectors to see the big picture in health care for older people and to get them working together not just in winter but all year round to deliver better services."

Professor Philp is Professor of Health Care for Elderly People at the Northern General Hospital.

Prior to accepting this post, he was Director of the Sheffield Institute for Studies in Ageing.

He was also the co-chair of the independent External Reference Group that advised the government on the development of the NSF for Older People.

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See also:

16 May 00 | Health
GPs say NHS is ageist
27 Jun 00 | Health
Doctors deny ageism accusations
16 Apr 00 | Health
Age discrimination 'rife' in NHS
13 Apr 00 | Health
NHS ageism row sparks action
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