Two headlines in the Sunday Times on 25 October grabbed my attention:-
- “Revealed: how elderly paid price of protectingNHS from Covid” was the front page story of an investigation onto how older people were treated by the NHS during the first wave of the Coronavirus.
- ”McCarthy & Stone bid raises alarm over buyouts” was another front page story, but this time in the section on Business & Money.
At first sight they are unrelated, but they are curiously intertwined. They are both about the value of older people in society, or maybe I should say the lack of value.
The first article is an Insight investigation into the Governments actions and NHS response to the first coronavirus shock wave. In a hindsight review it is easy to be cleverer from the sidelines and tempting to point blame, but we should also remember the heat and fog of the battle. In February there is no question that we were ill prepared and not sure what we had to deal with. So after dithering for a month we made the problem worse. The “ just in time” philosophy had run out of time.
The long standing problems of the past had caught up with us. A pandemic report written three years previously had not been acted upon, so we were caught with our PPE pants down. Equally important was the bed blocking in the NHS by older people unable to be discharged because of the emaciation of community care and the poor standard of residential care. The lack of a plan for Social Care over many years all added to the problem. These are deep roots which the Sunday Times investigation didn’t go into.
It is certainly true that when the fire has started it is better to concentrate on putting it out first. So that is what the Government/NHS did. They put out the old people! A decades long issue solved in a few weeks, created instant capacity in our hospitals. What is even more impressive is the building of the Nightingale hospitals in an instant. What a shame they couldn’t have responded years earlier by providing Patient Hotel accommodation for the ‘bed blockers’.
Next we come to where they put the old people. Half went back home and half were sent to residential care homes. None were tested for coronavirus nor was there any extra health support. Then came the Catch 22 solution – it was important that they didn’t bounce back into hospital, so new more stringent admission criteria were concocted to make readmission almost impossible. This was the NHS washing its hands of older people.
A Final Solution with empty Nightingale hospitals instead of gas chambers!
This is a very dark place which nobody would consciously wish to get to, but if we don’t watch out we will walk into to it again with our eyes closed. These are attitudes to ageing which should have nothing to do with access to health care.
I have not singled out any individual because I think we are all to blame for allowing the prevarication over Social Care to persist for so long.
This story will continue in my next post …..