An extraordinary response from the country’s national healthcare provider.
NHS England has taken the unusual step on Sunday of publishing a 12-page rebuttal to allegations published in national newspaper The Sunday Times that elderly COVID patients considered unlikely to survive were “written off” by being refused treatment in intensive care.
“These untrue claims will be deeply offensive to NHS doctors, nurses, therapists and paramedics, who have together cared for more than 110,000 severely ill hospitalised Covid-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic, as they continue to do today,” Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, stated.
“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.”
“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.”
The three-month investigation by the paper had claimed the high infection rate in the UK had forced the Government, NHS and hospitals into prioritising which patients to treat after speaking to over 50 sources in the NHS and the government about the health service’s response to the pandemic.
This resulted in “large numbers of elderly and frail patients” being admitted to hospital, with many elderly COVID patients dying at home or in aged care homes.
But the NHS says they never ran out of ICU beds and there was no national decision to refuse care to anyone on the basis of their age.