10/10/2005

Elderly mental health care criticised in new report

Older people suffering from mental health problems are facing a lack of adequate services and age discrimination, a charity report has revealed.

Research conducted by mental health charity Mind found a cut-off of services for the over-65s, as well as a lack of treatment choice, age discrimination by some GPs, lack of specific suicide prevention policy, high prescription of electro-convulsive therapy and diagnosis failure.

Mind described the report, published to coincide with World Mental Health Day, as “deeply disturbing”.

The report, which surveyed 489 people aged over 50 with mental health problems, said that the government’s National Service Framework (NSF) for Mental Health only deals with adults up to 65, leaving mental health care for those over that age to the NSF for Older People. However, this service did not come with ring-fenced funds and Mind said that mental health requirements had not been met as a result.

Mind found that the government’s Mental Illness Specific Grants were only available for ‘working age’ people (those under 65), which meant that people often had to leave supportive services, such as day centres, on reaching 65.

The report also found that the NSF for Older People did not cover suicide, and found that people aged 75 and over were less likely to be asked about depression or suicidal feelings or referred to a mental health specialist than the rest of the population.

Mind’s research also suggested that older people were seen as a “lower priority” for treatments such as psychotherapy and were often unable to receive talking therapies due to long waiting lists.

The report also found that older people were more likely to be prescribed tricyclics – an older form of antidepressant – than the newer SSRIs (selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors) and that only 43% of over-65s received an appropriate dose of the drug.

Mind also found that the use of electro-convulsive therapy was double as much for the over-65 than any other age group, despite serious side-effects, such as memory loss and increased risks for older people, who more likely to suffer from heart complaints and other cardio-vascular conditions, which could cause complications during the procedure.

Mind has launched a new campaign, ‘Access All Ages’, to urge the government and healthcare services to ensure that older people receive the same level of mental health treatment and support as the rest of the population.

Richard Brook, Chief Executive of Mind, said: “Access all ages highlights the shameful neglect of this vulnerable and often isolated group of people. The sudden removal of services and treatment at the age of 65 clearly causes great distress to many people – this unfair discrimination must be removed.

“Some GPs provide excellent support to older people, but too many health professionals do not yet receive the training to identify and deal with the growing mental health problems older people face. And it is crucial that for them, just like anyone else, treatment choice should be a right, not a gamble.”

(KMcA/SP)

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