Stressed doctors using ‘phone a friend’ service to make ethical decisions during pandemic

Burnt-out intensive care doctors are using a new “phone a friend” service to help them

Burnt-out intensive care doctors are using a new “phone a friend” service to help them make life and death coronavirus decisions, The Telegraph has learnt.

At least four London hospitals and others across the country are using new systems to allow doctors to call more senior colleagues for help making ethical decisions during the pandemic.

One version at the Imperial College Healthcare Trust allows ITU doctors to summon a panel of consultants for a video conference within half an hour, 24 hours a day.

The service has also been developed at the London Nightingale hospital in the ExCel centre, which is currently in “hibernation”, and its parent trust, St Bart’s.

Doctors working on intensive care wards must make ethical decisions about the rationing of drugs where there are shortages, or whether to take patients off of ventilators.

Guidance by the British Medical association warns that during the pandemic doctors are “working at or even beyond the ordinary limits of their competence or expertise” and will be “concerned about their ability to provide safe and ethical care”.

“They will also be concerned that their actions may attract criminal, civil or professional liability,” it adds.

A global shortage of remdesivir, the coronavirus “wonder drug” has led to restrictions in UK hospitals over the last week.

Where doctors are concerned about ethical choices or need a second opinion, they can call what is known as a “three wise person” panel to offer advice.

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