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Statement on Health Service Ombudsman Report

Published on 14 February 2011 04:30 PM

Spokespeople are available - please contact the press office

In response to the Health Service Ombudsman report ‘Care and Compassion', Michelle Mitchell, Charity Director at Age UK, said:

'The inhumane treatment of older people described in this report is sickening and should send shockwaves through the NHS and government. It's difficult to imagine us allowing any other group of people to suffer this indignity and neglect, yet we know this is just the tip of the iceberg: appalling treatment of older people in the health service is far too common.

'This is not only a damning indictment of our health service, but of our society in general, where older people count for less and damaging discriminatory attitudes against older people remain rife.  As this report shows, nowhere is this felt more acutely than in the NHS.

'As the Government pushes ahead with its shake up of the NHS, the big question is will they actually change anything for older people?  This report serves as a stark reminder that getting it right for older people is critical to the success of the NHS in the 21st century.'

Equality legislation

'The introduction of landmark equality legislation to outlaw harmful ageist policies and practices illustrated in this report is key to improving the healthcare of older people.  But in a time of huge reorganisation, those who work in the NHS need a great deal of support to implement this legislation on the ground if it is to actually change behaviour and really make a difference.'

NHS Reforms

'While we support the Government's focus on outcomes, we are less convinced that the reforms as they stand will deliver the improvements urgently needed for growing numbers of older people living with multiple conditions and frailty.  The Secretary of State should be able to justify how these reforms will improve healthcare for the whole population and report on this every year.  Also, commissioning levers need to be put in place to hold providers to account, ensure older people's needs are met and prevent this kind of treatment taking place.'

'Health services of primary importance to older people are frequently under-prioritsed by the NHS, meaning their needs go unmet. Age UK is calling on David Nicholson in his new role as chief executive of the NHS commissioning board, to carry out a system wide review on the implications of ageing and especially the rising numbers of people in late old age.'


'As the largest group of users of the NHS, most staff will be regularly providing care for older people.  Yet the majority lack the right skills to do this effectively and there is a deeply ingrained cultural bias against working in the geriatric field.  The NHS urgently needs to rebalance professional education and training to give staff the right skills to care for the patients they will actually see.'


'The report highlights the hugely distressing problem of malnutrition and dehydration suffered by so many older people in our hospitals.  Progress on this issue has been painfully slow and Age UK is now calling for a Malnutrition Commission to bring renewed focus to this issue and to develop a comprehensive strategy for change.'

- ENDS -

Notes to Editors

  • Older people already represent the largest cohort of patients in the NHS accounting for over three quarters of NHS patients and 60 per cent of hospital admissions and 70 per cent of bed days in NHS hospitals.
  • An estimated 3.9 million (33% of people aged 65-74 and 46% of those aged 75+) have a limiting longstanding illness. This equates to 39% of all people aged 65+. General Lifestyle Survey 2008, Office for National Statistics, 2010
  • Men aged 65 in the UK can expect to live their last 7.2 years with a disability. For women, the average is 9.4 years  (Health expectancy at birth and at age 65 in the United Kingdom, 2005-07, Statistical Bulletin, Office for National Statistics, 2010)
  • As our population ages, these trends will become more acute. The number of people aged 65 and over is expected to rise by 65 per cent in the next 25 years to almost 16.4 million while the number of people over the age of 85 is predicted to double. 

Age UK

For media enquiries relating to Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland please contact the appropriate national office: Age Scotland on 0131 668 8055, Age Cymru on 029 2043 1562 and Age NI on 028 9024 5729.

Age UK is the new force combining Age Concern and Help the Aged, dedicated to improving later life.

We provide free information, advice and support to over five million people; commercial products and services to over one million customers; and research and campaign on the issues that matter to people in later life. Our work focuses on five key areas: money matters, health and well being, home and care, work and training and leisure and lifestyle. We work with our national partners, Age Scotland, Age Cymru and Age NI (together the Age UK Family), our local Age UK partners in England and local Age Concerns. We also work internationally for people in later life as a member of the DEC and with our sister charity Help Age International.

Age UK is a charitable company limited by guarantee and registered in England (registered charity number 1128267 and company number 6825798). Age Concern England and Help the Aged (both registered charities), and their trading and other associated companies merged on the 1st April 2009. Together they have formed the Age UK Group ("we").  Charitable services are offered through Age UK and commercial products are offered by the Charity's trading companies, which donate their net profits to Age UK (the Charity).

Media contact: Vicky Smith
Tel: 020 8765 7515
Out of hours: 07071 243 243

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Last updated: Oct 06 2017

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