BGS President responds to Sunday Times articles addressing older people’s healthcare during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic

29 October 2020

On 25th September 2020, The Sunday Times published a series of articles addressing older people’s experiences of healthcare during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to the publication of these articles, Professor Tahir Masud, President of the British Geriatrics Society, commented:

Recent articles in the Sunday Times have outlined how some decisions during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic negatively affected older people. We urge the Government, the NHS and individual hospital trusts to reflect upon the events from that unprecedented period and ensure that the same mistakes are not repeated. While it is important to remember that some older people who are living with severe frailty and multiple chronic conditions would not have benefited from invasive and potentially futile critical care, the investigation by the Sunday Times raises serious concerns about equitable access to care. We were dismayed to see claims that in some trusts, older people may have been denied critical care, as well as non-invasive ventilation, when they could potentially have benefited from it. If older people are denied this care based on their age, rather than on carefully considered individualised assessments weighing the potential benefits and risks, it runs contrary to our previous public statement and the basic tenets of geriatric medicine. We strongly urge hospital trusts to make sure that geriatricians, who are experienced in weighing up these difficult decisions, are involved in any COVID-19 related pathways. As we enter the second wave of the pandemic, it is vital that we learn from the experience of the first wave. We are writing to the Health Ministers in each of the four nations to highlight actions they should take to ensure the best possible outcomes for older people as we navigate through the next stage of the COVID-19 pandemic.”