15 October 2012
Are operations being rationed?
It has emerged that there older people are missing out on operations that are routinely offered to younger patients.
A new report has been issued that reinforces the fact that operations should not be denied to patients based on age. The report showed the variations in surgical based on age, with the chance of being operated on peaking in middle age and declining heavily in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s.
Professor Norman Williams, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said, “It is a person’s biological – rather than chronological – age that matters. It was worrying to hear of patients being advised to put up with health problems and told: “What do you expect at your age?”
The report found the following:
- Breast cancer peaks in women in their mid-80’s but surgery is most likely in the mid-60’s then decline sharply from 70.
- The greatest need of replacement knees and hips is in those aged over 65 but the rate of operations drops sharply in patients in their late 70’s.
- Surgery rates for prostate cancer do not match the increasing numbers as men get older.
- Planned surgery for hernias in older men is rising but emergency procedures are increasing.
- Heart disease rates keep rising but the number of surgeries falls sharply after the age of 70.
Michelle Mitchell, of Age UK, said, “A healthy-living 80-year-old could run rings round someone many years younger who does not share the same good health. Yet in the past, too many medical decisions have been made on age alone, with informal “cut-offs” imposed so that people over a certain age were denied treatment.”
Professor Williams added that there were good reasons for non-surgical alternatives but that gap between the increasing need for surgery and access to it means many older people are missing out on the life-saving treatment.
Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents NHS organisations, said, “This report presents some worrying figures. We need to . . . examine whether they are the result of arbitrary decisions taken solely on the basis of age, or because some non-surgical treatments could offer greater benefit, or a patient chooses not to undergo surgery.”