Accessing services

A ban on age discrimination (Equality Act 2010) became effective in October 2012. The ban seeks to address discrimination, poor treatment and misunderstandings regarding age, in particular those affecting younger and older people. The Home Office has published quick-start guidance to support the introduction of the ban on age discrimination.

This section sets out how older and younger people can experience discrimination and barriers to accessing health services.

Older people

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation ‘better life programme’ reflects on what it means to get older, including an exhibition of older peoples stories. A range of perspectives on ageing are also captured in the following briefings:

The Centre for Policy on Ageing has produced a series of literature reviews, reports and briefings on issues related to ageing and equalities.  

Joseph Rowntree Foundation review adopts a ‘capability-based’ approach to equality, and explores equality and diversity issues in accessing and experiencing services for older people with high support needs.

The Kings Fund has produced a briefing on age discrimination in health and social care. It explores the impact of attitudes on the healthcare of older people, including misdiagnosis and referral. It states that older people in particular tend to be stereotyped as an homogenous group characterised by passivity, failing physical and mental health and dependency; including a low expectation of older people’s mental capacity which produces inappropriate and infantilising behaviours and treatment from staff. The briefing also cites examples of the use of age targeted services and the impact on older people.

Attitudes make a difference to the care older people receive. Age UK gathered personal stories from older people which describe a variety of problems, some of which appear to be directly associated with their age.

These include:

  • difficultly accessing medical care physically or as a result of people’s attitudes
  • being placed in wards that offer poorer or non-specialist care
  • not believed by health staff when describing symptoms or their symptoms are misdiagnosed.  

Young people

The Walk the Talk programme focuses on the barriers young people face when accessing health services such as:

  • lack of confidentiality
  • unwelcoming environments
  • poor communication
  • failure to involve young people in their own care.

Barriers to service access are compounded by poverty. This Joseph Rowntree report sets out what day-to-day life is like for people experiencing poverty, and how these experiences change over time. Also see the Socio economic inequalities pages.

Research with 70 children and young people conducted by IRISS, commissioned by NHS Scotland to inform the development of mental health indicators for children and young people in Scotland, revealed that:

  • children and young people do not feel that they are consistently listened to
  • older young people have quite significant experience of stigma and discrimination
  • family is important to children and young people, but this can often depend on the person´s circumstances. shares young people’s experiences of health and illness. This information is based on qualitative research into patient experiences led by experts at the University of Oxford.

Updated April 2015

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