This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

pulse june2020 80x101px
Read the latest issue online

GPs go forth

Don't impose extended lockdown on elderly, say BMA and RCGP

The BMA and RCGP have warned the Government against imposing an extended lockdown on older people when the UK starts to ease measures.

Both argued that age alone was not a strong enough factor to determine who should essentially be in quarantine and warned that any such decision could come with unintended health consequences.

The comments come as the Government is expected to unveil plans for how the UK could come out of the Covid-19 lockdown later this week.

It comes as early on, people over 70 were urged to take social distancing measures particularly seriously as they are deemed ‘clinically vulnerable’ to the coronavirus. 

BMA council chair Dr Chaand Nagpaul said: ‘Any proposal to impose stricter social distancing for those at higher risk - essentially quarantining - based solely on age would be both unethical and illegal. Any moves to do this could only be justified if it were to protect individuals themselves, their families and the wider public.

'This applies equally to individuals whether to an arbitrary age of 60 or 70 or to younger people with underlying health conditions. A blanket-ban on any section of the population being prohibited from lockdown easing would be unacceptable.'

He argued that 'while any strategy to ease the lockdown must ensure the UK does not see a second wave of Covid-19 infection, it must also balance this with the rights and needs of individuals across the UK'.

In a similar vein, RCGP chair Professor Martin Marshall stated: ‘It is not our view that age alone is a sophisticated criteria on which to base decisions as to who should self-isolate and to what extent during the next stage of lockdown.

'People of all ages have a wide range of capabilities and are subject to various risk factors, of which their age is one, that might affect their health and how they respond to Covid-19.

‘Asking any individual to undertake strict isolation measures is already a significant ask that will undoubtedly have some impact on their physical and mental health.'

He said this comes as GPs are finding that many patients who are currently "shielding" are 'expressing concern about their ability to continue extreme isolation for a long period, and this needs to be taken into account as plans for how the lockdown will continue are formulated'.

‘When we do hear what the next set of measures will be, it will be the role of GPs to present this information and the evidence behind it to individual patients, setting out the level of risk and implications for themselves and others, and to support patients to decide for themselves what to do. We can strongly advocate that our patients follow official guidance, but we can’t mandate action,' Professor Marshall said.

Their comments come as a paper authored by primary care professor Azeem Majeed last month argued that people over 60 should also be advised to take extra caution against Covid-19.

At present, 28,734 people across all UK settings are confirmed to have died with Covid-19.

Readers' comments (6)

  • I am still not confident the British self-righteous respect the elderly enough to keep them safe.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • Here was me thinking that the BMA is a Doctor's Union?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • without a vaccine they will always be at risk unless they have already had it and survived, which to be fair, most of them will do. It should be their choice if they want to continue in lockdown or not, and if so support them, until we can test them for antibody and thus exposure, and then they can decide if to come out of lockdown or not until a vaccine arrives. kids should go back to school, people go back to work, maintain social distancing, otherwise people will do it anyway but not in a controlled manner. which is what is happening at the moment. as there is no timeframe for people to come out of lockdown people will just do their own thing. we are a selfish species by design, thats how we have survived over 1000s of years.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I don't care what the BMA think about this, they should be looking after the interests of their members and dealing with the concerns about the Network DES.
    Priorities all wrong as usual.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • The RCGP/BMA and Dr Nagpaul's stance is itself unethical.
    Elderly and vulnerable should be encouraged to stay in isolation/quarantine in the interests of themselves and the public health in general.
    How long, we cannot say, but at least until results are available of the social easing 'experiments' in Italy and Spain.
    international and 'holiday' travel should continue to be banned and all passenger aircraft grounded until an immunisatoin is available for those not yet immune
    Anything else is MURDER, which, last time I checked, was illegal as well as unethical.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • This sounds like a load of old men deciding that old men should be allowed out to play golf (or fly halfway round the world to climb Mt Kilimanjaro)

    Then of courses there’s the middle aged men who need to see their mistresses

    BMA please concentrate on sorting out the s***show of care home rounds and the PCN contract, and try and counter some of the garbage flowing down my funnel from NHSE. Leave the social policy to someone else and get on with representing your members not your own interests

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say