VENTILATORS are to be rationed, using tactics employed on the battlefield, where army medics choose who to treat and who to leave to bleed out depending on patients’ survival odds, doctors warn.
New guidance from the British Medical Association (BMA) which will mean doctors deciding who will live and who will die states: ‘Health professionals may be obliged to withdraw treatment from some patients to enable treatment of other patients with a higher survival probability.’
According to the new BMA guidance, doctors will face decisions ‘which mean some patients may be denied intensive forms of treatment that they would have received outside a pandemic.
‘This may involve withdrawing treatment from an individual who is stable or even improving but whose objective assessment indicates a worse prognosis than another patient who requires the same resource.’
The BMA’s guidance says that during the peak of the pandemic doctors may have to assess a person’s eligibility for treatment based on a ‘capacity to benefit quickly’ basis.
Dr John Chisholm, chairman of the BMA’s medical ethics committee, said: ‘Looking ahead to the coming weeks, if hard choices are required, we know they will be contested. There will be anger and pain.’
Chisholm added: ‘People who, in normal circumstances, would receive strenuous treatment may instead be given palliation in order to favour those with greater likelihood of benefiting. Nobody wants to make these decisions, but if resources are overwhelmed, these decisions must be made.’
Retired NHS consultant surgeon and BMA member Anna Athow commented: ‘This is outrageous! Instead of producing a twelve-page guide on how to deny life-saving treatment to coronavirus patients the BMA should immediately set up a fight to reopen the closed District General Hospitals with their Intensive Care Units and demand redirection of billions of NHS money out of PFI consortium management consultancies and huge private contracts and pour them into addressing this urgent crisis.’
Meanwhile, a major NHS hospital almost ran out of oxygen for its Covid-19 patients on ventilators because it was treating so many people with the disease who needed help to breathe.
The incident occurred at a London teaching hospital last weekend.
NHS bosses have now warned all NHS trusts in England to limit the number of people they put on mechanical ventilators and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines.
NHS England was so concerned by what happened that it told hospital bosses in a letter on Monday that the risk constituted a ‘critical safety concern’ which could have major consequences for all patients relying on oxygen to stay alive. It told them to take a series of urgent actions to reduce the risk of their own oxygen supply suddenly running short because of heavy demand.
NHS bosses have now warned all NHS trusts in England ‘to limit the number of people they put on mechanical ventilators and continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) machines’.
Meanwhile, just 2,000 of the half a million NHS staff requiring tests have actually been tested for Covid-19.
There were reports of drive through chaos as NHS doctors and nurses were turned away from a new staff coronavirus testing centre on Wednesday.
Hundreds were left queuing at a pop-up drive-through facility in north west London as many were refused a swab because they ‘lacked the proper paperwork’.
The test centre, is in the car park at the Wembley branch of IKEA – like other sites in Nottingham and Surrey.