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Covid-19 disproportionately affects the elderly, solutions should be disproportionately focused on protecting them

This week, The Times reported that there is to be a two month delay in the planned implementation of monthly testing for care home residents.

The news follows a report by The Public Accounts committee that described the treatment of care homes during the Covid-19 pandemic as “reckless”.

I have written before about how monthly testing doesn’t go far enough and needs to be accompanied by daily symptom checking to uncover those cases that occur between tests. The fact that many care homes still won’t be able to order testing kits for another month – even if there are no further delays – makes this need even more urgent.

The danger of Covid-19 to the elderly has been well-documented, but delving deeper into the figures really hits home quite how disproportionately it affects older people. Data from the Office of National Statistics shows that more than 98% of Covid-19 deaths in the UK have occurred in people over the age of 70 and the below graphic shows how risk rises dramatically by age.

With the ONS data also showing that dementia and Alzhiemer’s disease are the most common pre-existing conditions among people killed by Covid-19, it is clear that our most vulnerable people need further protection from this deadly infection.

We know from our partners working in the care sector that Covid-19 has created a huge financial burden, as well as a health one – leading to costly empty beds and increased running costs. 

In his recent speech on ‘the future of healthcare’, the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care, Matt Hancock, talked about the need to ‘build back better’, about the necessity of data-driven decision-making and about how ‘better tech means better healthcare’. I fully agree with this and our clinical trials data proves it to be true.

Currently though, 70% of care homes are still reliant on paper systems. A recent campaign by leaders in the care sector, which speculated on the ‘care home of the future’, placed digitisation and data-informed predictive and preventative care, at the very centre. 

If one good thing could come out of this pandemic, it would be the widespread adoption of technology, services and processes that improve and protect the lives of the most vulnerable people in society. For this to happen, the Government needs to ensure that technological advances can be introduced right across the health and social care spectrum.

It is clear to all of us that this Covid-19 has disproportionately affected the oldest and most vulnerable members of society. When building back better, the solutions should really be disproportionately focused on protecting them in the future, as well.

Dr Jas Saini is the CEO of Vtuls and an expert in using health technology to monitor vital signs and symptoms.

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