Older people are bearing the brunt of NHS spending cuts due to a culture of ageism, Age UK has warned.
Caroline Abrahams, its charity director, said it is ‘distressing’ that although ageism has been outlawed it continues to be ‘deeply rooted in the way older people are treated by the NHS’.
She spoke out after a report suggested there is evidence of ‘rationing’ to cut costs in the NHS with surgery for knees, hips and eyes coming under particular pressure.
Certain operations have reached their lowest level for several years following the recent austerity measures, according to the study by health analysis firm Dr Foster.
Its data revealed the number of knee operations was increasing steadily since 2002, in the context of an ageing population, but the figure dropped for the first time last year.
The total of 81,572 knee operations in 2012 was down from 82,122 operations the previous year.
Similarly the number of cataract operations had been rising but that figure started to decline in 2009 and there are now fewer such procedures being carried out than in 2008.
In 2012 the total number of cataract operations was 321,957, whereas the 2008 figure was 326,456.
The data in itself can not be deemed as showing patient needs are not being met, but a Dr Foster spokesman said it is likely NHS trusts have been changing the thresholds at which patients qualify for treatment.
If that is the case, it means people who would previously have been treated are now being made to wait until their condition worsens or do not qualify at all.
This is where Age UK’s charity director has warned ageism comes into play.
Ms Abrahams said: ‘Too often decisions are made on age alone with informal ‘cut-offs’ imposed on whole services.’
The Dr Foster data shows that around 1 in 4 people (24%) live in areas where hip, knee and eye operations have fallen, while there has been an increase in avoidable hospital admissions.
There are said to be 41 areas with rising rates of avoidable emergency admissions.
Spending on important treatments is being reduced in some parts of the country while resources are ‘wasted’ on avoidable or less effective care, the report suggests.
Removing tonsils, knee ‘washes’ and back pain injections are among the procedures referred to as less effective, as their clinical benefits have been shown to be minimal or non-existent.