THE chairman of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals has slammed a Sunday Times report claiming frail and elderly patients were denied care during the peak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Over the weekend, the newspaper report alleged that a “brutal triage tool” was used to free up intensive care beds because health chiefs were concerned the NHS would be overrun.

The investigation claimed that this led to those aged over 80, and some in younger groups such as the over 60s, were not given potentially life-saving treatment.

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The allegations have been disputed by the Department of Health and Social Care and has prompted a lengthy rebuttal from the NHS.

On Wednesday, the Sunday Times report – and the potential impact it may have on frontline staff – was raised by the chairman of St Helens and Knowsley Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust’s board.

“It was, in my opinion, a disgrace in the way in which it was written,” said Richard Fraser.

“It was almost saying that we were choosing who gets critical care and who doesn’t.

“Now, we’ve got that mantra of five-star care for every patient. This was almost saying, we decide who lives and dies.

“In the worst of circumstances, and we’re not there, medical professionals have to make those choices sometimes – but the way that article was written was a disgrace.”

The chairman of the trust board is a non-executive appointment, and are responsible for leading the board and ensuring the trust fulfils its legal and financial obligations.

Mr Fraser praised NHS staff, saying they are “putting themselves at risk every day for the good of us all”.

He said: “If I was a medical professional working full time rather than the amateur that I am, chairing, I would have been depressed with that.

“I’d have taken that personally as a hurt. And I don’t want our staff to be affected by that.

“Our staff, across the NHS but particularly in our trust I hope, are doing a fantastic job making personal sacrifices and putting themselves at risk every day for the good of us all.”

St Helens Star: Whiston HospitalWhiston Hospital

Mr Fraser’s comments come after NHS national medical director Stephen Powis branded The Sunday Times’ claims as “deeply offensive”.

He said NHS doctors, nurses, therapists and paramedics have cared for more than 110,000 severely ill hospitalised Covid-19 patients during the first wave of the pandemic, and continue to do so today.

Professor Powis said: “The Sunday Times’ assertions are simply not borne out by the facts: it was older patients who disproportionately received NHS care – over two thirds of our Covid-19 inpatients were aged over 65.

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“The NHS repeatedly instructed staff that no patient who could benefit from treatment should be denied it and, thanks to people following government guidance, even at the height of the pandemic there was no shortage of ventilators and intensive care.

“We know that some patients were reluctant to seek help, which is why right from the start of the pandemic the NHS has urged anyone who is worried about their own symptoms or those of a loved one to come forward for help.”