Faced with an epidemic, England is already planning on rationing:
Thousands of patients could be denied NHS treatment and left to die under ‘worst-case’ emergency plans for a swine-flu epidemic.
The blueprint would force doctors to ‘play God’ and prioritise intensive-care treatment for those most likely to benefit – ruling out patients with problems such as advanced cancer.
The ‘scoring’ system would be introduced if half the population became infected with flu.
The scale of their concern is highlighted in the Department of Health’s report: Pandemic Flu – Managing Demand and Capacity in Health Care Organisations.
Detailing plans to ration hospital treatment, the report warns that if half the population were infected, 6,600 patients per week would be competing for just under 4,000 intensive-care beds.
Around 85 per cent of those beds could already be full with day-to-day emergencies.
To allocate ventilators, beds and intensive-care equipment doctors would have to ‘score’ patients on their health and prognosis as well as seriousness of their conditions.
Those who failed to respond to treatment would be subject to ‘reverse triage’ – in which they were taken off ventilators and left in NHS ‘dying rooms’ with only painkillers to ease their suffering.
Patients with underlying illness such as advanced cancer or the last stage of heart, lung or liver failure – and those unlikely to survive even if they were given treatment – would not be given an intensive-care bed.
Definitely what we want over here — right, folks?
Actually, I’ll freely concede that we probably would do precisely the same if we had an epidemic. In an epidemic situation, rationing is inevitable, because an overwhelmed system cannot cope. What I’d like to think, though, is that our system will be less overwhelmed than the creaking National Health Service, which already does rationing to cope with its inefficiencies.