Help the Aged has criticised age discrimination in the NHS after new research found half of GPs deny treatment to older people because of their age.
The charity, which campaigns for the social and political rights of the elderly, said the British Medical Journal research highlighted a "backward" healthcare system.
"It is shocking that such blatant age discrimination exists in GP practices today," said
Lorna Layward, research manager for Help the Aged.
"A person's age should never be used as a factor to determine treatment. What a backward system to suggest that people are prioritised solely on the basis of their age, when a 65 year old may actually be in better health than a 45 year old."
She added it was "more alarming" that "little is actually known about the appropriateness of many treatments for older people", noting that over 65s rarely featured in clinical trials.
"Many older people have been paying into the NHS since its inception and believed they would be looked after from 'cradle to grave' but all this does is help see them into an early grave," Dr Layward warned.