Older patients suffering from depression are routinely fobbed off, misdiagnosed or offered the wrong treatment because of their age, a new report has claimed.
GPs prescribe drugs such as Prozac in cases where counselling would be a more appropriate form of treatment, according to the study by Age Concern.
The charity says that in excess of two million people aged over 65 show signs of depression in England but the proportion given psychological help is much lower than in the rest of the population.
According to the report: "Fewer than 10% of older people with clinical depression are referred to specialist mental health services compared with about 50% of younger adults with mental and emotional problems.
"Ageist attitudes can also influence what treatments GPs believe are suitable for older people with depression.
"This can mean that treatments such as counselling and other talking therapies are denied to them in favour of antidepressants."
Launching its new campaign "Down But Not Out", the charity claims that 80% of elderly patients suffering from clinical depression do not get any treatment at all.
In some cases, GPs are unable to refer older people on to other parts of the NHS that could help them because of discriminatory rules excluding people over the age of 65.
According to the charity, older people who have recently lost a loved one are three times more likely to show signs of depression than older people who are married.
"I feel as a practice nurse, who does homevisits to our housebound elderly, that they don't get the correct treatment, or treated at all for deppression because conultation is too time consuming (and almost no one in any medical/nursing team is alotted enough of time!) and these patients are passed from one team to the next in order to avoid "wasting time" and responsibility. I experience that the district nurse team (usually over W/E or when I have not been avaiable), in the past say they cannot get blood specimens from certain challenging patients in our surgery. When I then have to take up this role, there is actual difficulty in achieving this process. The problem they have (I believe) is that they don't want to be involved regularly and deter us from calling them, as they may be more overloaded than the already are. The truth is the NHS would rather spend a huge amount of money on organising statistics to "prove achievements" without giving resources. We need an adequate workforce to do the work! Simple one would think!" - Chana Radnor, Manchester