By politics.co.uk staff
People over 65 are commonly being denied access to the full range of mental health services available to younger patients, new research claims.
A study by the Healthcare Commission, published today, claims that while there is evidence of some good practice around the country, services for over 65s needs "urgent attention".
In its study of services for older people at six specialist mental health trusts (about ten per cent of the total number), the Commission found older people were often unable to access the full range of services, including: out of hours services, crisis services, psychological therapies, drug and alcohol misuse services.
Today's report also found older patients were often prevented from accessing care because of stretched services or a lack of age-appropriate care.
Some staff questioned in the study said patient groups considered to be of high risk to the public or where government targets were applicable were often prioritised, leaving older people's services lagging behind with little funding.
Anna Walker, the Commission's chief executive, said in a statement: "Improving mental health services for older people is an important priority for the NHS, which the government has already recognised.
"This study has revealed some areas of good practice. Where health and social services are working well together we found high quality care and a wide range of services available to older people. At some trusts, carers told us that they had good support and training to help them cope with their loved one's illness. This is to be welcomed.
"But trusts are not always providing appropriate mental health services to the over 65s. It is truly unacceptable that out of hours and crisis services were often not available to older people. There needs to be a fundamental shift towards providing care based on a person's clinical need rather than their age.
"Considering a quarter of admissions to mental health inpatient services are over 65, this issue needs urgent attention."
The Commission said it was also "very concerned" that nationally available data does not provide a robust basis on which to compare the performance of different areas in meeting older people's mental health needs, or to allow the boards of trusts to assure themselves about the extent to which they are providing good quality non-discriminatory care.
As a result, it recommends the government, the information centre for health and social care and regulatory bodies should review the quality and focus of national data sets, to enable more effective monitoring and evaluation of these services.