Understanding your rights as an older person

Your rights as an older person

Like all patients, you have the right to:

  • be treated with dignity and respect
  • see your medical records (this can take up to 40 days and may involve a fee)
  • be given information about any proposed treatment, including its aims and side effects
  • expect confidentiality
  • ask for a second opinion
  • refuse treatment
  • make a complaint.

Respecting your dignity

You have a right to expect that the people caring for you will respect your privacy. They should also be sensitive to your needs.

This may be as simple as them asking what you would like to be called, rather than assuming they can call you by your first name. It also means giving you privacy during physical examinations. If you find a situation embarrassing or distressing, tell the doctor or nurse so they can help to make things more comfortable for you.

You can ask for a chaperone if you want one, or take a family member with you for examinations. A chaperone is a trained person who can:

  • provide reassurance
  • protect your dignity and confidentiality
  • offer emotional support
  • help with communication between you and the healthcare professional.

Protection against discrimination

England, Scotland and Wales

In England, Scotland and Wales, the Equality Act 2010 protects anyone who has cancer. It also protects anyone who has had cancer in the past. This law protects you from being unfairly treated (discriminated against), harassed or victimised because of cancer or your age. It means that the NHS should provide services equally to everyone, regardless of age, gender, race, disability, sexual orientation, religion or belief.

Some cancer treatments are less successful for older people. Or they may have worse side effects for people who have other health conditions. The Equality Act means that your doctor should consider all treatment options and explain their treatment advice to you. This must be based on a full assessment of your health. Your doctor should also ask other health professionals for advice about your treatment, if necessary.

The Equality Act also protects anyone who is caring for someone who is older or has cancer from discrimination, harassment or victimisation because of their caring responsibilities.

Contact the Equality Advisory and Support Service for more information about your equality rights.

Northern Ireland

People with a disability in Northern Ireland are protected by the Disability Discrimination Act 1995. This means you cannot be discriminated against, harassed or victimised because of a disability, including by health services.

The law also protects people with cancer and carers who are also employees from direct discrimination and harassment in the workplace.

At the moment, in Northern Ireland, the law only protects against age discrimination in employment, vocational training and education. It does not protect against age discrimination in health or financial services.

For more information about your rights under disability discrimination laws, contact the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland.

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