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The Equality Act and NHS services

The Equality Act protects you from being treated differently as a result of certain ‘protected characteristics’. These are:

  • age
  • race
  • sex
  • gender reassignment
  • disability
  • religion or belief
  • sexual orientation
  • marriage or civil partnership
  • pregnancy and maternity.

The Equality Act is particularly important to older people as it makes age discrimination unlawful. This means that public services, including the NHS, cannot provide inferior services, or refuse to provide services purely because of a person’s age, unless there is a good and sufficient reason.

For example, you must not be refused treatment because of a ‘stereotypical’ view of your age. Instead, the NHS must look at each case individually to decide what treatment options should be offered.

However, a good and sufficient reason for a difference in services offered to people of different ages would be the age ranges chosen for cancer screening programmes.

If you think you might have experienced age discrimination, you may find it useful to read our factsheet Resolving problems and making a complaint about care.

For more information: Call Age UK Advice: 0800 678 1174

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