Sunday 1 August 2021 7:22 AM UTC
LONDON Aug 1: A secret document prepared by NHS England for the Department of Health & Social Care in 2017/18 proposed treating patients on their chances of survival rather than clinical need, says report obtained by The Telegraph.
The secret NHS England strategy was designed in 2017 to ensure the health service would cope in the event of a severe flu pandemic. The document said the triage system ‘would only be invoked once all capacity in the NHS was exhausted’.
An NHS spokesperson said the documents were based on an ‘extreme hypothetical scenario’ and did not form the basis of their response to the coronavirus pandemic.
But they have raised questions given the government’s handling of care homes during the crisis. More than 42,000 care home residents in England and Wales have died since the pandemic began.
The papers were obtained by Dr Moosa Qureshi following a year-long freedom of information battle. He argues medics should have been told about the response plans.
Dr Qureshi said on CygnusReports.org, where the documents were published on 31st July 2021: ‘If these documents did not form the basis of the NHS response to coronavirus, then what triage plan did NHS England prepare for coronavirus and why have they consistently refused to share it with frontline NHS staff who have had to make very challenging decisions on the ground?’
He told The Telegraph: ‘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?’
A spokesperson for the NHS 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.’
A government spokesman said the reports were ‘historical draft briefing papers that include hypothetical scenarios which do not and have never represented agreed government policy’.
The Telegraph had disclosed earlier this year that care homes were asked by NHS managers and GPs to place “do not resuscitate” orders on all residents at the height of the pandemic to keep hospital beds free – in breach of guidelines.
The documents reveal that the Government proposed triaging patients based on their “probability of survival” rather than “clinical need” if resources were exhausted.
The reports were obtained by Dr Moosa Qureshi, working with lawyers Leigh Day, who was concerned about pandemic preparedness. The Government initially rejected his request under the Freedom of Information Act, but the Information Commissioner said their disclosure was in the public interest.
NHS England have issued a statement to The Telegraph: “The NHS was asked to produced 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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