Older people with mental health issues 'are being failed by the NHS'

Older people who have mental health problems are seen as "second class citizens", a charity has said.

The NHS in England is "failing" older patients with mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, according to a new report from Age UK.

The charity said that not enough older people with common problems are being referred for talking therapy.

an old woman's hands (Peter Byrne/PA)
(Peter Byrne/PA)

Health officials set a target that 12% of referrals to the Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme should be for people aged 65 and over.

But the charity's report suggests that only around 6% of referrals are for older people, and that it will take an estimated 15 years to reach that target.

And a survey conducted on local health bodies found that just three had set specific targets around increasing the proportion of older people accessing IAPT.

An elderly person with a hearing aid (Sean Dempsey/PA)
(Sean Dempsey/PA)

Age UK estimates that there are around three million people over the age of 60 living with depression in the UK.

It said that older people usually respond extremely well to talking therapies as it called on the NHS to make sure plans are in place across the country to improve the access to such treatments.

Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK, said: "Unfortunately our research makes it hard to avoid the conclusion that older people are routinely seen as 'second class citizens' by our mental health services, with many denied access to the best and most effective treatment if they are coping with depression, even though the evidence shows they often do really well on it if given the chance."

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "For older people living with depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, psychological therapies can really help with the management of a range of conditions - and four million people have already benefited from them.

"We are committed to going further, which is why we have introduced the first ever mental health waiting time targets to bear down on the unacceptable lengths of time it takes for people to get the treatment they need and are boosting funding to enable 600,000 more adults a year to receive care by 2020."

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