Legal rights are set to ensure that pensioners receive fair access to NHS services, in line with new equalities legislation being debated by Parliament.
Health Secretary, Andy Burnham, announced at the National Children and Adult Services Conference that from 2012, age discrimination in the NHS and social care would be banned. It was originally thought that this would not happen until a later date.
The move follows a review into the treatment of the elderly by Sir Ian Carruthers, the chief executive of NHS South West. Earlier this year he was asked by the previous Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, to investigate the health barriers faced by older people, after a number of ageism claims.
Researchers found elderly stroke patients received less adequate care than younger counterparts and a watchdog warned the over-65s lost out on mental health services.
A poll found almost half of doctors who cared for older people believed the NHS was "institutionally ageist".
Mr Burnham said: "As we live longer and as the NHS helps us live longer, we have to look at different ways the NHS can help older people."
"As people get older the demand for care becomes greater, with a substantial increase in the possibility of hospital admission. A proactive service as opposed to reactive should exist so that issues for older people are addressed before they reach crises point. Across the country services are being redesigned which will incorporate rehabilitation and enablement teams within community settings. It is to be hoped that enablement services will fill this gap which exists where addressing anticipatory care is seen as the norm" - Elizabeth Gibson, Glasgow