On the day Boris Johnson was admitted to hospital with COVID 19, Vivien Morrison received a phone call from a doctor at the East Surrey Hospital in Redhill.
Stricken by the virus, her father, Raymond Austin, had taken a decisive turn for the worse.
The spritely grandfather, who still worked as a computer analyst at the age of 82, was not expected to survive the day – his oxygen levels had dropped to 70 per cent rather than the usual healthy levels of at least 94 per cent.
Vivien said she was told by the doctor that her father would not be given intensive care treatment or mechanical ventilation because he ticked too many boxes under the guidelines the hospital was using.
This is called triage and it’s common practice in any health care setting given to numerous patients with limited resources and it’s a practice that’s been around for decades in one form or another.
But the fact is these people needed intensive care and were not being given it, and there’s been a great deal of coronavirus rationing to keep the old and frail away from hospitals, and many elderly people were excluded from hospital and intensive care during the height of the pandemic’s first wave because they kept telling us that it was to stop the NHS from being overrun, yet Nightingale Hospitals were left empty.
This is called culling, euthanasia or genocide, but whatever it’s called, it’s definitely not human behaviour.
Documents were drawn up at the request of Chris Whitty, England’s chief medical officer. The devised guidelines were called a triage tool, which was later used to prevent many elderly COVID 19 patients from receiving ventilation in intensive care, and one of the documents advised doctors that anyone over the age of 80 years old should be excluded altogether.
Intensive care doctors say the triage criteria set out in the documents, which score for age, frailty and illness, were used in hospitals in Manchester, Liverpool, London, the Midlands and the southeast, but the Department of Health insisted the guidance was never formally published, however, multiple sources say it was widely circulated and used by hospitals and doctors.
And one intensive care doctor described how the triage tool prevented so many elderly patients from being admitted to intensive care in his hospital and that many critical care beds were empty.
Instead, patients were left to die, and NHS data acquired by Insight demonstrated stark differences in the way intensive care was used for various age groups.
Patients over the age of 80 years old made up 60 per cent of the total deaths from the virus, but just 2.5 per cent of the age group that was admitted to hospital were given access to intensive care.
However, many of the small minority of those in that group who did go into intensive care would later be discharged alive, and figures suggest only one out of 9 people who died of coronavirus had been given intensive care treatment.
It also demonstrates that a proportion of over 60-year-olds receiving intensive care treatment halved as the pressure came on during the height of the pandemic, and the new findings undermine claims by Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary, that everyone who needed care was able to get that care, during the first wave.
This led to demands for more honesty about the awful price that was paid to protect the NHS so that lessons could be learnt in a second wave, and as part of a three-month investigation into the government’s handling of the crisis during the lockdown, a news outlet spoke to more than 50 witnesses, including doctors, paramedics, bereaved families, charities, care home workers, politicians and government advisors.
Inquires unearthed proof that a variety of steps was taken which kept people from going into hospital, and in some areas, GPs were asked to identify their frail elderly patients who would be left at home even if they were extremely ill with the virus, and local trusts supplied lists of patients for doctors to consider excluding.
NHS England also issued guidance to health authorities setting out groups of elderly people, including all care home residents and those who had requested not to be resuscitated, who should not ordinarily be conveyed to the hospital without the consent of a senior doctor.
Ambulance and admission teams were told to be more selective about who should be taken into hospital and one paramedic reported visiting case after case where people had died from heart attacks after being left too long to deteriorate in their homes while suffering from the virus.
And care homeowners voiced frustration that their residents were being denied access to the hospital.
One described how eight patients were left to die from the virus in the home before the hospital started admitting his residents again – the five who went to the hospital after that survived.
The disclosures came as Professor Neil Ferguson, whose modelling influenced the decision to lockdown in March, cautioned that the health system would not be able to cope if coronavirus cases continued to grow at the current rate this autumn.
Dr Chaand Nagpaul, chair of the British Medical Association said that it was manifestly the case that considerable numbers of patients didn’t receive the care that they needed and that was because the health service didn’t have the resources.
Now we’re stepping into a second crisis without having learned vital, even life-saving lessons.
Conservative MP David Davis, the former Brexit secretary, said the government’s approach had catastrophic consequences for thousands whose lives could have been saved, and he added that the policy appeared to have given the least care to those who needed it most, and it was profoundly unjust that the Government didn’t come clean to the people about this catastrophe.
The Department of Health said that the triage tool was tasked by Chris Whitty and other UK medical directors, and it was said to be part of planning for a worst-case scenario and when it became obvious this would not happen, the guidance was not developed further, therefore was never distributed or implemented.
Professor Stephen Powis, NHS national medical director, issued a statement saying that all patients had been treated equally and he said that the NHS repeatedly instructed staff that no patient who could benefit from treatment should be refused it and that thanks to people following government guidance, even at the height of the pandemic there was no shortage of ventilators and intensive care.