NHS primary healthcare services are “letting older people down”, even though they are the main adult users of the NHS, according to a new report out by Age Concern.
The report criticises PCTs for “drastically” cutting many primary care services, such as chiropody and basic footcare, as a way of slashing budgets to save money.
The report, Primary Concerns, highlights the fact that older people use GP practice services more than younger adults. Nevertheless, it finds that nearly one in five 65–74 year olds are still experiencing difficulties in getting an appointment to see their GP or practice nurse.
Age Concern points ouit that private footcare is simply not an option for most pensioners, as a private chiropodist can cost up to £30 per session – nearly a third of the weekly basic state pension.
One year on from the launch of the charity’s Feet for Purpose campaign, the Department of Health is set to launch its preventative healthcare package for older people, which has pledged to improve access to essential foot care services.
Gordon Lishman, Director General of Age Concern, said: “Healthcare should be free at the point of use. It is unacceptable that older people’s health needs aren’t properly prioritised within the NHS, despite the fact that they are the biggest adult service users.
“As we age, we are more likely to need the support of NHS primary care services. If the government is to achieve the aim set out in the NHS review to ensure high-quality care is part of everyone’s experience, then it urgently needs to address the deep-rooted age discrimination that lies at the heart of the NHS.
“If older people are to get a fair deal, the new NHS Constitution now going through consultation needs to ensure age discrimination is given as much priority as other forms of discrimination."