Guidelines that will help doctors and nurses decide the best course of treatment for patients amid the coronavirus crisis have been published.
The so-called rapid guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) say that decisions about admitting people who test positive for COVID-19 to critical care should consider the medical benefit and take into account the likelihood of the person’s recovery.
In its guidance, Nice advises medics to: “Base decisions on admission of individual adults to critical care on the likelihood of their recovery, taking into account the likelihood that a person will recover from their critical care admission to an outcome that is acceptable to them.”
The guidelines state that for cancer patients, medics need to balance the risks of the patient not being treated in the usual way against the risk of them becoming seriously ill due to a weakened immune system.
The guidance also suggests workarounds such as treatment being offered at different places, patients having longer breaks between treatments and delivering treatments in different ways.
Latest coronavirus news, updates and advice
It is also recommended that transport services are checked and alternative arrangements made where necessary if the normal provider refuses to transport patients confirmed to have the virus.
The new guidelines, published on Saturday, say all patients admitted to hospital should still be assessed as usual for frailty “irrespective of Covid-19 status”.
Nice said it would make its guidance available online so other countries can see the approach the UK is taking to tackle the virus and care for patients in the NHS.
The advice comes amid concerns the UK does not have enough intensive care beds to cope with the number of people who will fall ill and doctors will end up having to prioritise who gets a bed.
Earlier this week, Health Select Committee chairman Jeremy Hunt asked whether “absolutely heartbreaking” scenes from hospitals in northern Italy would happen in England.
In response, NHS national medical director Stephen Powis said the health service and Government were doing “everything we possibly can not to get into that circumstance”.