For older people, too?

The lead article in the Sunday Times today says it has unearthed evidence showing that the over 60s were excluded from hospital treatment , following guidelines from NHS England, to stop it being over-run during the first wave Pandemic.  It says, ‘Our inquiries unearthed evidence that a variety of steps were taken which kept people from going into hospital,’ and names some NHS Trusts that issued guidelines and lists to GPs.  ‘The Department of Health and Social Care insists the guidance was never formally published, but numerous sources say it was widely circulated and used by hospitals and doctors.”

It also mentions the elderly being denied intensive care and ventilators but this is a more nuanced topic as it’s been found that ventilator treatment is not always best for the elderly.
The NHS has issued a swift rebuttal. (…/nhs-and-other…/) It makes valid points about intensive care and ventilator treatment, but doesn’t seem to deny that access to hospital treatment was withheld for a period from older people.  The Daily Mail has published a report with a graph showing that as the number of cases of Covid soared, there was a sharp dip in the number of elderly admitted to hospital. (
The co-chair of the Moral and Ethical Advisory Group, Professor Sir Jonathan Montgomery said, “We were asked to look at the issue of a Covid-19 triage tool, however, it wasn’t needed…“The rapid expansion of critical care capacity ensured that our initial concern that the NHS might be unable to meet all its patients’ needs proved unfounded.”
Which begs the question – WHAT WAS THE CRITERIA FOR THE ‘TRIAGE TOOL’?  What did it actually say?  Did the unpublished but circulated document make age a barrier to hospital admission? It should be clarified, because it was widely reported at the time that a government minister stated that 90 year olds shouldn’t be admitted to hospital because they would clutter it up.
Even in the darkest time there were stories of hope.  Earlier in this blog I reported how many older people had recovered from Covid, to the joy of their medical teams, as well as relatives.  One happy son, photographed next to his 84 year old mother (who also had other health conditions) said, ”Cheer up! It’s good news, folks!’
But right now, to allay the fears of older people already made worse by further lock-downs, this whole issue should be made clear.  If they become ill with Covid, will they be admitted to hospital, and if not, why not?

Louise Morse

Louise Morse MA (CBT) is media and external relations manager for the Pilgrims’ Friend Society. She is a writer and speaker, and author of books on issues of old age, including dementia, published by Lion Monarch and SPCK. She is a cognitive behavioural therapist, and her Masters’ dissertation examined the effects of caring for a loved one with dementia on close relatives.

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