It has been revealed that Britains National Health Service (NHS) drew up secret plans to withdraw hospital care from people in nursing homes in the event of a pandemic.
Confidential Whitehall documents obtained by the Telegraph show that the NHS strategy refused treatment to those in care homes or over 70s and that “support” would instead be offered to use so-called “end of life pathways”.
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The plans were drawn up by NHS England following a pandemic planning exercise in 2016 and designed to stop hospitals becoming overwhelmed.
It suggested that in the case of a “severe” flu pandemic, the Health Secretary could authorise doctors to prioritise some patients over others and even stop providing critical care altogether.
The Mail Online reports: Ministers have strongly denied that care homes were abandoned during the Covid pandemic despite an estimated 42,000 deaths among residents.
Thousands of patients were released from hospitals into care homes to free up beds, but some believe this caused a wave of infections among care home residents.
The documents seen by The Telegraph show that the Government planned to triage patients based on their ‘probability of survival’ rather than their ‘clinical need’ if resources were stretched.
The ‘confidential’ and ‘official sensitive’ documents on ‘NHS surge and triage’ and adult social care were sent to government advisers after they were drafted in 2017 and 2018.
The reports were obtained by NHS doctor Moora Qureshi who has raised concerns about the health service’s preparedness for a pandemic.
He filed a Freedom of Information Act to gain access to the dossiers, which was 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 Qureshi passed on the reports to The Telegraph and accused the government of being ‘unprofessional’ for not passing on the plans to medics.
He said: ‘The Information Commissioner held that clinicians must be supported by a clear framework when allocating care during a severe pandemic, and that the framework needs public debate.
‘The NHS triage paper provides real guidance for frontline staff if NHS services are overwhelmed. Why did the Department of Health, NHS England and BMA keep it secret from healthcare professionals?’
Earlier this year, it was revealed that care homes were asked by the NHS to place ‘do not resuscitate’ orders on all residents during the worst of the pandemic in breach of guidelines.
Last April, the government allowed hospital patients to be discharged into care home regardless of their virus status.
Boris Johnson’s former chief advisor Dominic Cummings has also said it was a ‘lie’ that everyone received care, saying ‘many people were left to die in horrific circumstances’.
An NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS was asked to produce this discussion document based on a specific and extreme hypothetical scenario to inform the Government’s pandemic flu preparedness programme rather than for operational use and it did not form the basis of the NHS response to coronavirus.’
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