NHS leaders have hit back at claims that elderly people were excluded from hospitals and intensive care at the height of the pandemic.
A report in yesterday’s The Sunday Times claimed frail and elderly patients were denied care by clinicians in wave one of the coronavirus pandemic, in part because clinicians drafted a triage tool for use if the NHS was overwhelmed.
The national newspaper claimed the document advised medics that anyone over the age of 80 should be excluded.
But the NHS’s national medical director, Professor Stephen Powis said the ‘untrue claims will be deeply offensive to NHS doctors, nurses, therapists and paramedics’, who cared for more than 110,000 severely ill hospitalised Covid-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic.
‘The Sunday Times’ assertions are simply not borne out by the facts: it was older patients who disproportionately received NHS care – over two thirds of our Covid-19 inpatients were aged over 65,’ said Professor Powis.
‘The NHS repeatedly instructed staff that no patient who could benefit from treatment should be denied it and, thanks to people following government guidance, even at the height of the pandemic there was no shortage of ventilators and intensive care.
‘We know that some patients were reluctant to seek help, which is why right from the start of the pandemic the NHS has urged anyone who is worried about their own symptoms or those of a loved one to come forward for help.’
And the president of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said, Dr Katherine Henderson added: ‘Emergency departments have been open throughout the pandemic and our top priority has always been patient care and safety.
‘While the pandemic has demanded some practical changes to the way we treat patients and we had to learn at pace about how to manage a completely new illness, we did not need to change the critical clinical decisions about the emergency care we offered.
‘We want to remind patients that we are here for them and they should not hesitate to seek urgent and emergency care if they need it as one of the serious concerns of the first wave was patients staying away through fear.’
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