It’s been reported that the NHS drew up secret methods to refuse treatment to people aged over 70 in the event of a pandemic and to stop hospital care for those in nursing homes.
Classified government records were written following a pandemic training exercise in 2016, detailing strategies to stop hospitals from being overwhelmed by sacrificing vulnerable members of the population.
Under the plans, the Health Secretary could enable doctors to prioritise some patients over others who were put on an end of life pathway in the event of a severe flu pandemic, and the plans even recommended that some patients shouldn’t get any critical care at all.
Ministers have firmly denied that care homes were abandoned during the COVID pandemic despite an estimated 42,000 deaths amongst residents, and thousands of patients were discharged from hospitals into care homes to free up beds, but some believe this created a surge of infections amongst care home residents.
The records seen by a newspaper outlet show that the Government planned to triage patients based on their likelihood of survival rather than their clinical requirement if resources were stretched.
The confidential and official sensitive papers on NHS surge and triage and adult social care were given to government advisers after they were drafted in 2017 and 2018.
The records were acquired by NHS doctor Moora Qureshi who raised concerns about the health service’s readiness for a pandemic.
He filed a Freedom of Information Act to get access to the dossiers, which were initially rejected by the government before the Information Commissioner intervened and said their disclosure was in the public interest.
Working with legal firm Leigh Day, Dr Moora Qureshi passed on the reports to a newspaper outlet and accused the government of being unprofessional for not passing on the plans to medics.
He said that the Information Commissioner held that clinicians should be supported by a clear structure when designating care during a severe pandemic and that the framework required public debate.
He said that the NHS triage paper provides practical guidance for frontline workers if NHS services were overwhelmed, and why did the Department of Health, NHS England and British Medical Association (BMA) keep it a secret from healthcare professionals?
Earlier this year, it was reported that care homes were asked by the NHS to put do not resuscitate orders on all residents during the worst of the pandemic in breach of guidelines.
This might seem like standard practice for some, but this was and is a disaster, and just because you have limited resources you don’t just try to save those with the greatest chance of survival, otherwise that makes us no better than monsters.
And should we really move to a deadbeat based triage system where judgemental people based on no information and purely their own prejudices determines who lives and who dies, what constitutes living a good life and what doesn’t? Yes, let’s have these gatekeepers of good virtue determining who gets to live and who gets to die!
It’s almost like we’re preparing for nuclear war, but it doesn’t mean it’s going to happen. And in a hostage situation, the police do their utmost to save lives, but in the case of a pandemic – oh well, they’re old, they’re no use to anybody, may as well let them die! – and they call this triage, good grief.
Of course, if my 95-year-old mother were in the hospital and needed a kidney transplant and then a younger person came in needing the same, then of course I would let that younger person have the kidney. It wouldn’t be a very nice choice to make, but it would be selfish of me to give the kidney to my mother who probably wouldn’t live for much longer anyhow, and would have lived a long and hopefully good life, but that would be my choice, not some triage deciding that for me – that’s called having your civil liberties taken away from you.