Wednesday, 4 March 2020

Britain is a country where old doctors are to be enlisted to treat old patients as part of the Government's Battle Plan to fight the new enemy called COVID-19

Daily Mail headline : 

Italy’s large elderly population is posing a challenge in slowing the number of coronavirus deaths in the worst-affected country in Europe. So far the virus has killed 79 people in Italy, overwhelmingly old men and women between 63 and 95 with underlying serious illnesses. A 61-year-old doctor who was not known to have underlying health problems has also died.

Twenty-three per cent of the Italian population is over 65, making it the oldest in the world after Japan. Professor Massimo Galli, the Director of Infectious Diseases at Sacco Hospital in Milan said : “Italy is a country of old people. The elderly with previous pathologies are notoriously numerous here. I think this could explain why we are seeing more serious cases of coronavirus here. Our life expectancy is among the highest in the world, but unfortunately, in a situation like this, old people are more at risk of a serious outcome.”

Britain, like Italy, is a country of old people, with 18% of them aged 65 and over and 2.4%  aged 85 and over. That's a total of 11.8 million old men and women aged 65 and over who are going to be most vulnerable to the coronavirus in the coming epidemic. Many of them will need the services of a doctor but Britain has a shortage of almost 12,000 general practitioners. In fact, in the last 7 years 600 surgical practices have closed down, affecting 1.9 million patients.

Now, despite the fact that many of them are themselves over 65 and are therefore in the danger group, the Government is considering introducing the‘Emergency Registration’ of retired doctors as part of its new ‘Battle Plan’ against coronavirus.

The Chair of the British Medical Association, Dr Helena McKeown, warned the Government's plan to encourage retired doctors back to work had to prioritise their wellbeing and said : "Bearing in mind many retired doctors’ ages, we must consider their own wellbeing and whether they would be putting themselves at risk by returning to work."

'Law and Policy Lead' at the Doctor's Association, Dr Jenny Vaughan said : "Plans to enlist retired doctors in the case of a coronavirus outbreak seem ill-thought out; not least because the virus has a higher mortality in older persons. Many doctors have been forced to retire early due to an equally ill-thought out pensions tax."

The Joint Honorary Secretary of the Royal College of General Practitioners, Dr Jonathan Leach said : "Retired healthcare professionals have a huge amount to offer the health service, but any drafting in of their skills to help deal with COVID-19 would need to be their choice and with their full understanding of the situation and any associated risks, and that every effort is made to ensure they are protected. We need to see the details of how this plan would work, but it might be that retired medics are not treating COVID-19 patients face-to-face, but helping out in other ways that increase capacity in the system."

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