Page last updated at 10:58 GMT, Thursday, 29 October 2009

Scrubbing up: Your comments

The Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, says age discrimination in the NHS must end and there is particular concern about the treatment given to those over 65 suffering from mental health problems.

Dr Dave Anderson from the Royal College of Psychiatrists outlines the scale of the problem and says treating everyone equally is not the answer.

Here are some of the comments you have been sending in to this week's Scrubbing Up.


I have worked as a psychologist with older people since the late 1970s. In some areas there has been minimal improvement in access to expert clinical psychology and neuropsychology over nearly 30 years! It is a disgrace when you consider how much input goes into under 65 mental health services. Older people often have more complex needs than younger people with greater risk of multiple trauma, dual problems such as depression and cognitive impairment (together), physical illness and physical limitations and social problems such as isolation. Providing help in such complex cases requires adequately resourced services, with the proper clinical skills and multidisciplinary working. Commissioners are just not addressing this issue as they do not understand the needs or realities of services. The government should be held to account as they keep producing big documents (e.g. dementia care strategy) with minimal extra provision of services. Did you know that in the dementia care strategy the need for clinical psychology or neuropsychology was not mentioned in the whole consultation document. Bizarre!
Michael, Warwickshire

Having lived in Gozo, Malta many years and been used to regular health checks, I relocated to UK in 2006 and asked my doctor about a regular check-up. He agreed but this was only blood pressure and urine. When I asked about blood chemistry tests I was told "if we offered this to all over 50, we would have so any referrals we wouldn't be able to cope." To me referrals means something is doubtful and wants checking more thoroughly; the essence of preventive or proactive medicine. This could be an early indication of a treatable condition which if neglected might ultimately become fatal. But the NHS cannot handle it and prefers me to wait until positive symptoms reveal a possibly untreatable condition. I'm male, 75, non smoker and take healthy living and eating very seriously. I feel the elderly are discriminated against, while those who wont take responsibility for their own health and persist in excessive indulgence in nicotine, alcohol, drugs, inertia and calories, expect and get full and repeated support from scarce resources.
Terence Quadling, Bristol

I do not get why the British public who fought a war against tyranny let the current government practice discrimination towards the elderly, those who paid the most, cost the least, worked the hardest and roll over and let this happen - let's have an uprising of us grey haired oldies and let's have some equality.
Maggi Dudhee, Sutton

I am nearly 60 and I have been the sole carer for my son who suffers with mental health problems for the last ten years. As a result of the stress this has caused I am now suffering with depression and anxiety myself and have attempted suicide more than once as a result. I have met many people with mental health problems and my experience is that Mental Health Services are inadequate across the board. Psychiatrists, social workers and nursing staff have all acknowledged privately that the service is failing many of its users and their carers, but management refuse to see that problems exist. After all this time I have given up trying to get suitable treatment for either my son or myself and I am afraid that as the incidence of mental illness seems to be on the increase the situation will only get worse.
Graham, London

How can a policy exist not to treat people over 65, yet there be no provision in place for them? Is this not blatant illegal age discrimination? My grandmother lost her husband of 62 years and was understandably depressed by this. So she went to her doctor's who just shrugged her off, saying, he was old, what did you expect? No support, no bereavement counselling, nothing. Disgraceful.
Annie, Sheffield

Does anyone to an offset whereby the increased costs to the NHS may be related to reduce costs for community support services funded by local government for example?
Ros, Renfrewshire

We are delighted this issue has been highlighted by the Royal College of Psychiatrists. PIPS (Public Initiative for the Prevention of Suicide and Self-harm) recognised discrimination against older people in 2007. The Protect Life Strategy which was launched in 2006 by our Health minister makes reference to older people. As many older people are dying by suicide, PIPS Training Partnership have developed a new training programme which looks at preventing depression and suicides in older people by give people the skills to identify older people at risk.
Philip McTaggart, Belfast, Co Antrim

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