NHS England Secretly Planned to Deny Treatment to the Elderly During 'Severe' Flu Pandemic: Report
11:56 GMT 31.07.2021 (Updated: 13:39 GMT 31.07.2021)
© AFP 2021 / TOLGA AKMENPeople queue to enter an NHS Covid-19 vaccination centre in Westfield Stratford City shopping centre in east London on February 15, 2021 as Britain's largest ever vaccination programme continues. - Prime Minister Boris Johnson called Britain hitting a target of inoculating 15 million of the most vulnerable people with a first coronavirus jab "a significant milestone", as the country prepared for the next phase of its vaccination programme. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP)
The UK government has repeatedly claimed that care homes were not abandoned by the National Health Service during the COVID-19 crisis, amid reports that hospitals released thousands of patients into those homes without testing.
The National Health Service (NHS) England secretly planned to refuse treatment to people aged over 70 in case of a pandemic and to halt hospital care for those in nursing homes, classified government documents have revealed.
According to the documents seen by The Telegraph, a strategy drawn up by the NHS during a 2016 pandemic training exercise was designed to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.
The strategy reportedly stipulated that in a "severe" flu pandemic, the health secretary could authorise medics to prioritise some patients over others, who were placed on an "end of life pathway".
The documents on "NHS surge and triage" revealed that the government allegedly proposed selecting patients if NHS resources were exhausted. Under the plan, the triaging process would be based on patients' "probability of survival" rather than "clinical need".
© AFP 2021 / DANIEL LEAL-OLIVASA veteran wearing a Royal Hospital Chelsea hat, and in PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face mask, as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London
A veteran wearing a Royal Hospital Chelsea hat, and in PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face mask, as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands outside the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital in London
The Telegraph reported that the "confidential" and "official sensitive" documentation was created in 2017 and 2018 and then sent to government advisers.
The reports were obtained by NHS doctor Moora Qureshi who expressed concern over the health service's preparedness for a pandemic, arguing it was "unprofessional" the NHS plans were not given to medics.
"The Information Commissioner held that clinicians must be supported by a clear framework when allocating care during a severe pandemic, and that the framework needs public debate. The NHS triage paper provides real guidance for frontline staff if NHS services are overwhelmed. Why did the Department of Health, NHS England, and BMA [British Medical Association] keep it secret from healthcare professionals?", Qureshi told The Telegraph.
An NHS spokesperson responded by stressing that the health service "was asked to produce this discussion document based on a specific and extreme hypothetical scenario to inform the government's pandemic flu preparedness programme rather than for operational use and it did not form the basis of the NHS response to coronavirus".
Earlier this year, media reports said the NHS asked care homes to issue "do not resuscitate" orders on all residents during the worst of the coronavirus pandemic in violation of guidelines.
It was preceded by the government reportedly allowing hospital patients to be discharged into care home irrespective of their virus status in April 2020.
Boris Johnson's former chief adviser Dominic Cummings, for his part, claimed in late May 2021 it was "complete nonsense" to say that the government "put a shield around care homes". According to him, "the opposite happened" as the NHS "sent people with COVID back to care homes".
He also asserted that COVID spread "like wildfire" in care homes, a situation that was exacerbated by the lack of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and testing for care home staff.