David Oliver is the current President of the BGS, clinical vice-president of the Royal College of Physicians, and a consultant in geriatrics and acute general medicine at the Royal Berkshire NHS Foundation Trust. He tweets @
I am delighted that October 1st sees the International Day of Older Persons and looking forward to all the activity that should go with it – in local communities, in public services and charities and in mainstream and social media. I also welcome the themes this year – highlighting and tackling ageism and celebrating older people.
The BGS is coming up to a landmark of its own next year – our 70th anniversary – having been founded in the year of the Act which established the National Health Service. We have gone from strength to strength since.
In various roles I have played within the BGS and in national health policy and leadership and through columns, blogs and mainstream media I have tried to do my own small part for the cause of tackling ageism and age discrimination. I’ve put some links to previous articles here rather than rehearse old arguments.
I personally and the BGS as an organisation contributed a great deal of evidence to the Equality Act 2010 and to the Centre for Policy on Ageing’s fantastic reviews of ageism and age discrimination in health and social care which helped to inform it.
The act placed an equality duty on public organisations around protected characteristics including age and disability. Contrary to some misunderstandings it didn’t ban age based differentiation where this was a means of achieving a legitimate aim (for instance, not having children on adult wards in hospital) but made it clear that capricious decisions or rules based on age alone were unacceptable.
The NHS constitution makes similar provisions for citizens to access services based on need alone and with equal entitlement irrespective of age.
In reality, whilst the Act did a good job of signalling intent, of highlighting ageism or age-based discrimination it’s rarely been used in court to challenge such instances.
There is plenty of evidence that ageism and age discrimination in public policy including health and social care services persists even in developed western nations. No wonder the World Health Organisation has made specific proposals around ageing better.