NHS consultation accused of age bias

Older people’s charities have attacked proposed guidance for the
NHS that says age discrimination in deciding treatment could be
justifiable in some cases.

The recommendation comes in a consultation document from the
National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), which
produces guidance for the NHS on the use of drugs and

In proposed guidance on “social value judgements”, Nice says it
recommends that “where age is an indicator of benefit of risk, age
discrimination is appropriate”. Although it rejects age being used
in any other way, its suggestion that it could be a determinant of
treatment was attacked as deeply flawed.

Age Concern health policy adviser Philip Hurst said: “The
assumption is that people of a certain age have the same
characteristics. Age is a very poor indicator of likelihood of
ability to benefit, or of harm. The logic would be that someone
aged 64 would benefit from a treatment, and someone aged 65 would

Help the Aged health and social care policy manager Jonathan
Ellis said: “The problem is that age is a very blunt instrument to
use as a means of making decisions about scarce resources. At its
best it is based on statistical averages, and at worst it is based
on prejudice. We simply don’t have reliable knowledge about what is
best for older people.

He added: “It has got to come down to an individual decision by
an individual doctor with an individual patient.”
The consultation ends on 30 June.


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