NHS discriminates against older people … says former old people’s tsar

“The NHS is discriminating against older people, Dame Joan Bakewell has claimed, as she said she had been denied access to a vaccination for shingles and mammograms because of her age.

Dame Joan, the former ‘older people’s tsar’ for the government said she was concerned that the health service was prioritising younger people for preventative treatment and screening.

The 85-year-old broadcaster and Labour peer, said older people would be left to ‘fend for themselves’ unless the NHS realised the value of keeping pensioners healthy.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston on Sunday, Dame Joan said: “Something is going wrong. I went to my local clinic I would like to have a mammogram again and I have been having them all my life, and I stay healthy, and I’ve resolved to stay healthy and they said, no you don’t automatically get called in now.

“Now that also happens to shingles. It’s a very horrible illness and there are now vaccines for people who are old because the risk of shingles increases with age especially if you had chickenpox as a child. And I applied for that. No you aren’t eligible for shingles.

“So what is happening? Is the health service saying, well the old they’ve had their lives we’ve got bigger priorities, it doesn’t matter.

“Given the problems of our finances, we’ll put the money with younger people rather than old, is that what’s happening? In which case the old are going to have to fend for themselves.”

Dame Joan said she was denied the shingles vaccine because she was too old
Dame Joan said she was raising the issue following the recent NHS breast cancer scandal in which 450,000 older women failed to receive screenings, which may have shortened the lives of 270 and led to thousands of missed cancer diagnosis.

Currently women are only offered screening up to the age of 70, because it was felt that by then the harms of over-diagnosis outweight the risk of cancer. However trials are currently underway to find out if it would be beneficial to extend screening to 73.

Older people are also only allowed the shingles vaccine up to the age of 79.

Dame Joan said prevention was extremely important to keep older people healthy and save the NHS money.

“There are more older people and they are very concerned about their health and it would save the health service money if they avoid illness

“Believe me, when you are over 70 (prevention) is very important. And I know that’s true of all my generation. We’re eager to stay fit, we want help in doing it, but we don’t want to fall off the radar. We need to be told about these things.”

Asked by Robert Peston whether it amount to a scandal, Dame Joan said: “Well I’m not sure that it is yet, but I am eager to find out what is happening here, to people who are over 70, over 80, people are living into their 90s.”