UK & World News
Elderly 'Denied Surgery On Age Grounds'
The NHS is defying the law by denying surgery to elderly patients on the grounds of their age, according to damning new research.
Data analysed by the Royal College of Surgeons reveals that pensioners living in many areas are turned down for lifesaving operations for breast or bowel cancer.
Procedures that dramatically improve the quality of life, including hernia repair, knee replacement and gallstone removal, are also subject to age discrimination.
The Health Secretary condemned the postcode lottery as "unacceptable" and warned health authorities that they were breaking the law.
The study shows that women over 65 are 37 times more likely to have breast cancer surgery in some areas of England than others.
Depending on where pensioners live, the chances of having a hip replacement vary by 11 times, with a six-fold variation in surgery for bowel cancer.
Clinical Commissioning Groups - which buy hospital treatment on behalf of local GPs - sanctioned so few operations for elderly patients in some areas that the data shows they performed "zero surgery".
Professor Norman Williams, RCS President, said patients should be assessed on the health and fitness, not their age.
He said: "We all know operations are now much safer and recovery much quicker.
"Patients can be healthy whatever their age - 90-year-olds can undergo quite major surgery these days with relatively few after-effects.
"Everybody must be treated as an individual."
The problem has been highlighted in previous studies, but the Government made age discrimination in the NHS illegal in October 2012. The new research shows it still has not been stamped out.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We expect the NHS to make sure that all patients can access the treatment they need - discrimination of any kind is unacceptable."
Peter Jones, 71, had surgery for bowel cancer earlier this year. His consultant said without the operation he would not have survived.
He told Sky News: "I think it's awful that us oldies are discriminated against."