Page last updated at 02:59 GMT, Tuesday, 27 January 2009

NHS Ageism: Case studies

Research published by the charity Help The Aged finds that many geriatricians think the NHS is institutionally ageist.

The doctors, all members of the British Geriatrics Society, also said they would have concerns about how the NHS would treat them in old age.

Here three women recount their experiences with the health service.


Joy Matthews' husband had Parkinson's disease for 20 years.

Joy Matthews
Joy was upset by the treatment of her husband
Although he had to rely on a wheelchair or scooter, he got out and about regularly, and maintained an active social life.

However, he picked up a bug which was not immediately diagnosed, and was eventually transferred to intensive care.

Mrs Matthews said: "On the second day, the consultant took me to one side and said: 'Your husband is a very old man and has been ill for many years.

'We understand his quality of life is poor and he probably sits in a chair all day, and his life is not worth fighting for.

'In view of this, we will withdraw all drugs etc. and let nature take its course.'

"I was astounded. Where had they got this information from?

"I explained the situation and the consultant agreed that, in that case, his life was worth fighting for.

"In all fairness, they then pulled out all the stops.

"If I had agreed with him, would they have pulled the plug there and then?

"Sadly, it was too late to save him, despite their best efforts.

"However, I feel that everyone's life is worth fighting for."


Jean Austin went to see her GP about problems with her foot which had been bothering her for about 18 months, and was beginning to affect her job as a librarian.

Jean Austin
Jean stuck to her guns
She said: "My GP simply put it down to age.

"When I challenged him, he told me to wear sensible shoes - or "treat" myself to a private consultation as a retirement present.

"His attitude was: 'Look at your age - you're coming up to 60'.

"I was about to leave his office when something sparked inside me.

"I thought: 'I'm not taking this.'

"I'm not a forceful person, but on this occasion something made me protest.

"When I did, he agreed to an x-ray which showed a broken bone.

"The specialist who dealt with me said it was a very nasty break which hadn't healed properly, and he took the bone out. It's been fine ever since.

"Mine wasn't a life-and-death case, but it was important to me.

"I go to the gym twice a week and I intend to remain active."


Violet Simpson, 84, had been receiving treatment for angina for two years.

Violet Simpson
Violet insisted on treatment
Two years ago she had an appointment to have an operation on a bunion on her big toe.

However, because of her angina, she was sent for a heart scan.

She said: "They found that it was not angina, but a leaky valve.

"I asked if I could have this fixed. The attitude from doctors was: 'What are you bothered about, at your age?'.

"I stuck to my guns and said I wanted this job done.

"At long last, I have managed to get an appointment. The whole experience made me feel pushed aside."

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NHS age discrimination 'common'
27 Jan 09 |  Health

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