Is there ageism in NHS surgeries?

doctor and patient image

Older patients may be being bumped down the surgery list

A new report has revealed that age discrimination may be preventing elderly patients from having key surgical operations.

The study, by The Royal College of Surgeons and Age UK looked at surgery rates for six common procedures for English over 65 year olds. It discovered a wide variation in access to different treatments, depending on where the patient lived, with a notable stagger in surgeries performed between the over 65’s and over 75’s.

Research examined data from cancer operations removing breast and colorectal tissue, gall bladder removal, hernia repairs, hip replacements and knee replacements across 2011/12.

Delaying surgery

The findings showed that there was a 34% drop in gall bladder operations and a 16.5% decrease in breast tissue removal between the over 65’s and over 75’s, despite the need for treatment increasing with age. Regional variations were also picked up on, with a 37 fold difference in the rate of breast tissue removal depending on where you lived.

Mia Rosenblatt, of Breast Cancer Campaign, told BBC News “While many different factors might impact on breast surgery rates, with a third of all breast cancers occurring in women over 70, it is essential that older breast cancer patients have access to the treatments that will benefit them the most,” whilst RCS president Prof Norman Williams commented that “Every patient must be treated as an individual.”

Martin McShane, NHS England’s director for people with long-term conditions, said “NHS England is committed to ensuring older patients have equal access to treatment which should always be based on what is right for each individual patient, on their informed preferences, not their age.”