HBI Deals+Insights / News

Why lockdown to protect the elderly, then deny them treatment?

This week, an exclusive HBI report has uncovered a troubling statistic: people over the age of 80 were up to three times more likely to die of a COVID-19 infection in countries using rigid rationing guidelines that excluded the elderly from intensive care.

But to be fair to the medical profession, in some heavily hit jurisdictions it was left with the choice of Solomon when resources began to dwindle at the height of the first COVID wave this spring; the effects of the decisions which were made – in some geographies based on age / co-morbidities – are now clear in the mortality rates of the patients affected. An unofficial points-based system in the UK, for example, counted age and chronic morbidities of patients; those with too high a score hit a treatment ceiling. Too many points? You’re not getting in.

Given how over-bedded Germany is, it is perhaps unsurprising that it coped so much better than many of its European neighbours. But in other countries, doctors did need to make invidious choices. Now in the wake of the crisis, Germany has started to pull back on its move to cut bed numbers. In Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands, which saw between six to eight times the number of deaths in that demographic among those being treated, that is not on the cards.

The contrast between Germany’s Basic Law, espousing equality for all, and the use of secretive and “informal” triage rules in the UK, is instructive. Such triage rules should at least be publicly acknowledged and openly discussed in a democracy. A failure to do so leads to creep and a lack of any accountability for care. It certainly doesn’t encourage creative and innovative hospital treatments for the over-80s!

In the UK, it is ironic that the very cohort who most admire the NHS should be treated like this. And you are forced to ask what is the point of a society which demands huge economic and liberty sacrifices from the young and then quietly decides to not treat the very group in whose name these sacrifices have been made?

Also telling is what the statistics tell us about the balance of power between the NHS public systems and their poor relations, the care homes which were left with little choice but to have patients, unscreened and potentially COVID positive, imposed on them in circumstances where many lacked the training, the staff, the guidance, and the capacity to cope with often fatal consequences.

HBI Deals + Insights readers can read our full report here.

We would welcome your thoughts on this story. Email your views to Max Hotopf or call 0207 183 3779.