PROFESSOR Sir David King, who was chief scientific adviser to Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, has warned that people over 90 should think twice about going into hospital during the coronavirus outbreak to avoid ‘clogging up’ the NHS.
He told the Daily Telegraph: ‘I think it’s fair to ask people in the region of 90 or 95 years old to think twice before going into hospital under the present circumstances . . . At the very least they should be consulting their GP before making that decision. The truth is that people of that age are in many cases unlikely to come out of hospital once they go in. And of course there is a risk that you are overburdening the NHS. We really don’t want 90-year-olds clogging up hospitals at this critical time.’
Although Sir David himself is 80, he seems unaware that even at the best of times most nonagenarians are afraid of going into hospital for the very reason that they may not come out alive, and avoid it if at all possible, preferring to stay at home or in residential care and be bombarded with TV adverts for funeral plans. Is he hoping that if they contract Covid-19 they will feel so guilty about ‘clogging up’ the hospitals that they will refuse to be taken there?
Professor David Oliver, an NHS consultant in geriatrics, defends Sir David’s remarks, ‘if not the tone’. Professor Oliver says that older citizens have the same rights to acute hospital services and they should not be denied them if they might benefit. He points out that around half of hospital admissions and two thirds of day beds involve the over-75s. However he says that these are exceptional circumstances and that the pandemic threatens to overwhelm hospitals.
Unfortunately for his defence, Sir David’s own ‘tone’ revealed his true attitude as no amount of platitudes could have done: although this pandemic poses the most serious threat to older people, they are the ones who should be denied treatment because they pose a threat to the NHS by ‘clogging it up’.
In a similar vein, former Telegraph editor Sir Max Hastings warned against the elderly becoming a ‘dead weight’ on the NHS as he asked people to focus on helping the youth through the pandemic.
He told BBC Radio 4’s World at One: ‘A lot of our children are going to lose their jobs and this seems to be the best reason for us oldies to be lying awake at night in our beds.
‘It’s unworthy of us to be frightened for ourselves. The younger ones are the future and we are the past.’
The care homes of Spain, where the bodies of elderly residents were found in their beds where they had been apparently left to die by staff, stand as a stark warning to any society that sees older people as a nuisance – and an expensive nuisance at that.
Meanwhile a Dutch euthanasia clinic has closed temporarily because of the ‘threat’ of coronavirus – to staff and others, not to ‘clients’, for whom the threat is seen as not dying. Perhaps they are hoping that the virus itself will continue their ‘work’ pro tem.