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NHS made secret pandemic plan to deny care to elderly

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#1 [Permalink] Posted on 30th July 2021 22:51
NHS made secret pandemic plan to deny care to elderly

Strategy drawn up by NHS England following 2016 pandemic planning exercise was designed to stop hospitals being overwhelmed

Confidential Whitehall documents show that the NHS plans refused treatment to those in their 70s and that 'support' would instead be offered to use so-called 'end of life pathways' 

Investigations team

30 JULY 2021 • 9:30 PM

The NHS drew up secret plans to withdraw hospital care from people in nursing homes in the event of a pandemic, The Telegraph can disclose.

Confidential Whitehall documents show that the NHS plans refused treatment to those in their 70s and that "support" would instead be offered to use so-called "end of life pathways".

The strategy was drawn up by NHS England following a pandemic planning exercise in 2016 and was designed to stop hospitals being overwhelmed.

It suggests that in a "severe" flu pandemic, the Health Secretary could authorise medics to prioritise some patients over others and even stop providing critical care altogether.

Ministers have repeatedly insisted that care homes were not abandoned by the NHS during the coronavirus crisis, despite mounting evidence to the contrary. More than 42,000 residents in England and Wales died during the pandemic and hospitals released thousands of patients into care homes without testing.

The Telegraph disclosed earlier this year that care homes were asked by NHS managers and GPs to place "do not resuscitate" orders on all residents at the height of the pandemic to keep hospital beds free – in breach of guidelines.

Dominic Cummings, Boris Johnson's former chief adviser, has said it was a "lie" that everyone received care, and that in fact "many people were left to die in horrific circumstances".

The documents reveal that the Government proposed triaging patients based on their "probability of survival" rather than "clinical need" if resources were exhausted. 

The documents on "NHS surge and triage" and adult social care – labelled "confidential" and "official sensitive" – were created in 2017 and 2018 and sent to government advisers. Both looked at how services would respond to a serious flu outbreak.

The reports were obtained by an NHS doctor, working with lawyers Leigh Day, who was concerned about pandemic preparedness. The Government initially rejected his request under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Information Commissioner said their disclosure was in the public interest.

Barbara Keeley MP, who sits on the health and social care select committee, said: "It's time the Government came clean about its policies on care homes."

Dr Moosa Qureshi, who passed the reports to The Telegraph, said it was "unprofessional" that 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," he said. 

"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 keep it secret from healthcare professionals?"

An NHS spokesman said: "The NHS 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."

A government spokesman said the reports were "historical draft briefing papers that include hypothetical scenarios which do not and have never represented agreed government policy".

‘Purely because my father was living in a care home, he was left to die’

When Andrew Ward received a phone call from the care home in April last year, it was the news he and his siblings had been dreading.

Their father, Geoffrey Ward, had developed a cough and, although at 74 he had previously been as "fit as a fiddle", he had been diagnosed with Covid.

He had gone to live in the home after an accident made him prone to wandering off unsafely, Andrew Ward recalled. But "from the moment that he displayed the first symptom, it was as though everyone had decided that the Covid would kill him".

Staff at the Cumbria nursing home told Andrew that they had already contacted the GP who had assessed his father over video rather than carrying out a face-to-face visit and determined that he should not be admitted to hospital.
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