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NHS denies elderly people were refused care during early Covid

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NHS bosses have denied claims that thousands of frail elderly people were denied potentially life-saving care at the peak of the pandemic in order to stop the health service being overrun.

NHS England took the unusual step on Sunday of issuing a 12-page rebuttal to allegations in the Sunday Times that patients deemed unlikely to survive were “written off” by being refused intensive care.

Prof Stephen Powis, NHS England’s national medical director, said: “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."

“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 newspaper claimed the high coronavirus infection rate in the UK before lockdown began on 23 March and the NHS’s limited supply of mechanical ventilators going into the pandemic meant that “the government, the NHS and many doctors were forced into taking controversial decisions – choosing which lives to save, which patients to treat and who to prioritise – in order to protect hospitals”.

The Sunday Times said its claims were the result of a three-month investigation that involved speaking to more than 50 sources in the NHS and the government about the health service’s response to the pandemic.

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Source: The Guardian, 25 October 2020

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