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'NHS not helping older people with mental health issues', charity claims

Elderly people with mental health issues are being failed according to Age UK. Credit: Ingo Wagner/ DPA/PA Images

Older people with mental health issues are being failed by the NHS in England, according to a charity.

Age UK claims elderly people with problems such as depression and anxiety are seen as "second class citizens".

It has accused local health bodies of missing targets to improve access to talking therapy for older people.

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

But a new report from the charity suggests that only around 6% of referrals are for older people.

The charity has estimated that it will take 15 years for the 12% target to be met.

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.

This is extraordinary and frankly it is also completely unacceptable in the 21sr century. We understand the acute pressures on mental health services but they do not justify what look to us like engrained, systemic failings so far as older people are concerned.

Whatever the underlying reasons for such poor performance - and some will say it is ageism, no more, no less - it is certainly time for our mental health services to up their game when it comes to helping older people, and we look to NHS England to provide the strongest possible lead.

– Caroline Abrahams, charity director at Age UK

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