The prohibition on age discrimination in relation
to the provision of goods and services, initially due to come into force in
April 2012 but put on ice earlier this year, will now take effect from October
The discriminatory withholding of NHS or social
care on the grounds of age alone, where this cannot be objectively justified,
could fall foul of the Equality Act 2010.
The Act will provide protection against discrimination,
harassment or victimisation on the grounds of age and will reinforce the duty
on public bodies and those carrying out public functions, including those
providing health and social care, to advance equality of opportunity and foster
good relations between different age groups. Public bodies will have to
consider how their policies and services impact upon older people.
The changes do not mean that such patients can
demand any treatment they want. Care decisions will continue to be made by doctors
based on their assessment of patients’ clinical needs. However, NHS staff will
have a duty to demonstrate that they have considered the wellbeing and dignity
of older people.
There are exemptions to age discrimination on the
provision of services. Insurance companies will still be able to use age as a
basis for assessing risk and setting premiums. Any age based practices will
need to be objectively justifiable, to survive a legal challenge.