Rationing care by frailty during the COVID-19 pandemic

Date of Review: July, 2021

Lewis EG, Breckons M, Lee RP, Dotchin C, Walker R., Rationing care by frailty during the COVID-19 pandemic, Age and Ageing, Volume 50, Issue 1, January 2021, Pages 7–10, https://doi.org/10.1093/ageing/afaa171

The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is disproportionately affecting older people and those with underlying comorbidities. Guidelines are needed to help clinicians make decisions regarding appropriate use of limited NHS critical care resources. In response to the pandemic, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence published guidance that employs the Clinical Frailty Scale (CFS) in a decision-making flowchart to assist clinicians in assessing older individuals’ suitability for critical care. is commentary raises some important limitations to this use of the CFS and cautions against the potential for unintended impacts. e COVID-19 pandemic has allowed the widespread implementation of the CFS with limited training or expert oversight. e CFS is primarily being used to assess older individuals’ risk of adverse outcome in critical care, and to ration access to care on this basis. While some form of resource allocation strategy is necessary for emergencies, the implementation of this guideline in the absence of significant pressure on resources may reduce the likelihood of older people with frailty, who wish to be considered for critical care, being appropriately considered, and has the potential to reinforce the socio-economic gradient in health. Our incomplete understanding of this novel disease means that there is a need for research investigating the short-term predictive abilities of the CFS on critical care outcomes in COVID-19. Additionally, a review of the impact of stratifying older people by CFS score as a rationing strategy is necessary in order to assess its acceptability to older people as well as its potential for disparate impacts. —Ashley Darcy Mahoney, PhD

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

(your message will only be visible after moderation)