Age barriers to mental health services must be removed to end widespread discrimination against older people, a national inquiry has found.

The UK inquiry into mental health and well-being in later life found that 3.5 million older people who experience mental health problems do not have access to adequate services and support. The four-year inquiry was undertaken by an independent board of health and social care advisers and supported by charity Age Concern.

It found that one in four people over 65 are suffering from depression and one in five people aged over 80 have dementia. Yet many older people with these conditions are often ignored and receive few support services, the report said.

It made 35 recommendations for ways to improve mental health services for older people. At the top is tackling age discrimination, said inquiry chair Dr June Crown.

'The biggest obstacle is age discrimination and the rigidity between mental health and older people's services,' she told HSJ.

Many older people with mental health problems are referred to older people's services. The report recommends the development of a comprehensive commissioning framework for mental health services for all adults.

Mental Health Network director Steve Shrubb agreed there should be a single commissioning framework for mental health services for people with functional mental health problems, such as depression, because access to psychological therapies under adult services was limited.

He added: 'Every primary care trust should have a mental health commissioning strategy for all adults that reflects how older people are living and working for longer. But with all the changes, many PCTs have not yet developed these strategies.'

To read the report click here