Will elderly cancer patients end up on scrapheap?

Elderly People sign


What’s your Date of Birth?


DON’T tell it to an NHS worker – or beware the consequences.

You  could become a victim of ‘age bias‘, and end up in an old people’s ward, receiving poorer service than a younger cancer patient, with fewer nurses, all because of the way the NHS sidelines those over a certain age.

This has come out in a report from The King’s Fund.

Recently Paul Burstow, who is responsible for NHS services for the elderly, said   “it is unacceptable that our cancer survival rates lag behind our European neighbours, when we spend the equivalent amount on healthcare, and that 15,000 people in the UK over 75 are dying prematurely from cancer each year when compared to the best performing countries worldwide”.

This is how we treat

  • people who worked all their lives, and contributed the equivalent of well over £100, ooo to NHS funds
  • never took ‘sickies’ or a day off work
  • cost the NHS very little and were seldom seen in Surgery waiting rooms
  • worked their socks off in aid of medical charities – the organisations that Andrew Lansley is making the back-bone of his current services as he knows they don’t cost NHS a penny
  • never complain, as “I don’t like to make a fuss”

King’s Fund

Their recent report paints a bleak picture of NHS cancer services for the elderly.

  • Some  15,000 NHS patients over 75 tended to die prematurely.
  • UK is way behind survival rates of most European health services.
  • Older patients were under-treated on NHS
  • Chances of survival were poorer
  • Elderly less likely to receive proper tests
  • Studies identified a clear ‘age bias’

What’s happening

The post-code lottery is biased against the elderly.  Not only are they less likely to receive services, but they are often too old to protest or demand better care.

The King’s Fund identified one factor as being delayed diagnosis, and a case study repeats this:

Patient A is 72 years old.  Has had breast cancer.  Worried that health had deteriated, had a postal test for bowel cancer and this came back saying blood was present.  When she spoke to doctor, was referred for colonoscopy and endoscopy at local foundation hospital.

She should have had this within two weeks.  She had health issues so needed an anaesthetic during the procedure, but two hospitals said they didn’t do this.  Eventually she got a friend to call about this, and first hospital said they frequently arranged anaesthetics for this procedure, and could certainly do this.  As her friend was much younger, she wonders if she was told the hospital did not do this as they might have been told to ‘cut down’ with older patients?  By this time over four months had passed.

She had the colonoscopy, but was woken and told that (to save money, she suspects), she would have to have the endoscopy later.  This time she decided she could do without an anaesthetic, but when she turned up for procedure  was rushed through before the sedative had had time to take effect, causing massive bruising to her vulnerable throat muscles as they weren’t relaxed:  sedative hadn’t had time to work.  This necessitated strong pain killers for next ten days.

She suspects her treatment was “because I am old, dear”.

Macmillan say “there is strong evidence to show that age, not their health, is the main consideration when choosing the most appropriate cancer treatment for older people.  Next year, the Equality Act will outlaw age discrimination in the health service – but if you are in an ‘elderly’ ward, with fewer nurses and doctors allocated, the Act isn’t going to help.

Now, with waiting times getting longer for tests and other procedures, are the elderly in danger of being totally forgotten?

If you are looking after an elderly person, see


Many of the suggestions have been tried and tested, looking after elderly relatives – and they worked!  We are all going to get old – but with today’s NHS treatment of the elderly, this is not something to look forward to.







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