With the coronavirus pandemic affecting more than 84,000 Britons and with an active case of more than 73,000, the United Kingdom is struggling to accommodate every COVID-19 patient, especially those who require critical care. Because of that, the NHS has created a "scoring system" in the hopes of freeing up bed space, but it could badly affect elderly patients.
A New "Scoring System"
According to a report by the Daily Mail, the NHS scoring system is designed to free up bed space in the ICU and provide them to those who will most likely survive the coronavirus infection.
COVID-19 patients who are aged 65 and above will be ranked from one to 10 based on their frailty, age, and whether they have any other underlying conditions. For example, patients aged 71 to 75 will automatically have a score of four because of their age.
Based on the guideline, patients with an overall score of eight may not be admitted to intensive care and will be provided "ward-based care," where they will be treated with an oxygen mask instead of a ventilator, based on a report by the Financial Times.
Besides bed spaces, hospitals are also lacking personal protective equipment (PPE) and ventilators to help fight against the pandemic.
Guiding Healthcare Frontliners Against COVID-19
Nevertheless, the "clinical frailty scale" hasn't been validated for use for coronavirus patients under the age of 65 with learning disabilities
Additionally, doctors could override the frailty scale if "special consideration" is required, based on the official guidelines that have already been sent out to doctors, nurses, and other healthcare officials.
"The scoring system is just a guide. We make the judgment taking into account a lot of information about the current 'nick' of the patient - oxygenation, kidney function, heart rate, blood pressure - which all adds into the decision-making," an NHS frontline consultant told The Times.
Older patients who are suffering from other health issues, including asthma or bacterial pneumonia, can still be provided intensive care since their problems are treatable.
Is the Guideline Discriminatory?
The news comes a week after the British Medical Association has released advice regarding elderly COVID-19 patients who might be taken off of ventilators and instead provide them to younger patients.
The BMA believes that it will "inevitably be indirectly discriminatory against both the elderly and those with long-term health conditions."
According to the guide, a healthy 75-year-old patient cannot lawfully be denied treatment based on age, but older patients who have COVID-19 and are suffering from severe respiratory failure might be given lower priority for admission to the ICU.
The Alzheimer's Society has already commented on the new guideline, saying that the "discriminatory" scoring system could prevent elderly patients with dementia from getting the treatment even if they could potentially recover.
NHS's new scoring system was included in the guideline by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE), the NHS regulator.
Additionally, the system was initially designed at the Dalhousie University, located in Halifax, Canada.
As of now, there are no official treatments or a vaccine against the novel coronavirus infection.