Published: 01/12/2005 Volume 115 No. 5984 Page 3

There is something about getting older that seems to paralyse timely consideration of policy. This week's wide-ranging debate on retirement ages and pension provision demonstrates only too clearly the failure of both government and the public to open their eyes to the implications of the problem in good time.

But the age discrimination legislation that comes into force next year is another example - and one that has been brought sharply into focus by the prospect of widespread redundancies in primary care. As we report this week (news, page 7) NHS staff aged 50 and over are likely to lose their current right to preferential deals based on age - they would be discriminatory from next October.

The challenge for new union Managers in Partnership is to identify exclusions or negotiate something to put in its place.

That is likely to mean deals for redundancy or early retirement based on depth of experience.

This is not such a difficult concept.

What would make it much messier for all concerned is if an agreement is reached whereby those made redundant either side of October enjoy very different terms.

This will affect large numbers of managers. Employers will not be able to transfer large numbers of people currently at board-level to equivalent posts - board responsibilities are very specific and there are simply not enough of them.

The whole redundancy programme is already causing inevitable concern for individuals. It is vital that a long drawn-out negotiation on this aspect does not add to the pain.