Elderly mentally ill still receiving ‘inadequate’ care

Services for the UK’s estimated 3.5 million older people with mental health problems are inadequate, according to a new report.

The UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life, an independent body set up by the charities Age Concern and the Mental Health Foundation, concluded that ‘years of under-funding’ and ‘age discrimination’ in mental health services are preventing people from getting the support they need.

According to the inquiry, around one in every four people over 65 in the UK is suffering from depression, a figure that rises to two in five for those over 85.

But people over the age of 65 tend to receive different, cheaper and often inferior services compared to younger people with the same condition, the inquiry panel said.

Dr June Crown, chair of the inquiry, said: “Current services for older people with mental health problems are inadequate in range, in quantity and in quality.

“Our report draws attention to groups of older people who are currently invisible in the UK, who have been denied fair treatment that should be a hallmark of a civilised society.

“What we are very concerned about is that older people don’t necessarily get treatment for their depression even when they do report it to GPs.

“And if they do, they’re much less likely to be offered counselling and psychotherapy and much more likely than younger people to be given tablets.”

UK Government Health Minister Ivan Lewis said: “This report raises fundamental questions for the NHS, the care system, families and all communities as we face up to the challenge of an ageing society.”

It is estimated that two-thirds of older people with depression never discuss it with their GPs, and of those that do only half are diagnosed and treated.

* To read ‘Improving Services and Support for Older People with Mental Health Problems’ and find out more about the UK Inquiry into Mental Health and Well-Being in Later Life, click here.