Number of NHS patients waiting more than a year for treatment in London has skyrocketed

The number of NHS patients forced to wait longer than a year for routine treatment in London is now 20 times the figure for the whole of England in 2019. 

Leaked performance data showed 19,775 patients in the capital were waiting longer than 12 months for procedures such as hip or knee ops by July 19. 

In contrast, only 1,032 people across the entire country had not started treatment within a year of being referred in July 2019. 

The shocking figures lay bare how Covid-19 has devastated the NHS, with warnings that the health service faces an ‘enormous’ challenge if it wants to catch-up.

NHS England data last month revealed 1.5million patients across the nation were forced to wait at least 18 weeks to start treatment, the worst figure since 2007. 

Under the NHS’ own rulebook, patients should wait no longer than 18 weeks from GP referral to treatment.  

Health bosses fear it could take up to four years to clear the growing backlog of patients needing treatment.

The overall waiting list — at a record-high of 4.4million before the pandemic struck — was described as ticking time bomb.

Top medics have since warned it has detonated, with the decision to postpone tens of thousands of operations during the crisis causing backlog to grow.

The number of NHS patients who have been forced to wait more than a year for treatment in London is 20 times the figure for the whole of England in 2019

NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, has now told hospital bosses to get back to 'near-normal' levels of activity or they could face a fine

NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, has now told hospital bosses to get back to ‘near-normal’ levels of activity or they could face a fine 

The data for London — seen by The Independent — was submitted to NHS England by 23 hospitals across the country.  

The hospital with the most patients waiting for routine treatment is the Royal Free in Hampstead.

According to the leaked data, the trust had 6,488 patients waiting more than a year by the week ending July 19. 

And the Royal Free Foundation Trust, which runs the hospital, said its activity levels were down 60 per cent from normal. 

Barts Health Trust, which runs the Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel and St Bartholomew’s Hospital in the City, has also fared badly.

It had more than 2,469 patients waiting more than a year and its activity levels were down 50 per cent from normal.       

Chelsea and Westminster Hospital Foundation Trust reported its activity was down 76 per cent.  

NHS England chief executive, Sir Simon Stevens, has now told hospital bosses to get back to ‘near-normal’ levels of activity or they could face a fine.  

An expert on waiting times who runs the demand and capacity planning company Gooroo, Rob Findlay, told The Independent: ‘If you can’t keep up with demand then waiting lists are going to grow, almost without limit. 

YOU’LL HAVE TO BOOK A&E VISITS THIS WINTER

Patients will be asked to book an A&E appointment by calling 111 this winter, NHS bosses have been told. 

The plans, revealed in a board meeting for NHS England and NHS Improvement yesterday, are set to be put in place before December. 

But hospitals will not turn away patients who turn up without calling ahead of their visit, it was claimed.

Pilot studies of the ring-ahead scheme at casualty departments in Portsmouth and London have reportedly produced good results.  

The plans to ‘transform’ A&E care will move towards scrapping the four-hour waiting time target, it was also revealed.

Hospitals will be asked to rapidly adjust to the measures and make improvements as they go, according to board papers seen by The Times

NHS trusts across England currently work off a four-hour wait time target to operate emergency departments. 

The standard is 95 per cent of patients visiting A&E should be admitted, transferred or discharged within four hours. 

However, the NHS has failed to hit its four-hour benchmark for almost five years in a row. 

‘Wherever you draw the line it will inevitably be breached and waiting lists will continue to grow until the NHS can keep up with demand.

‘The rest of this financial year will be about doing as much as they can in difficult circumstances but it won’t be until April before the NHS can turn its hand to a proper recovery plan and that’s likely to take several years.’

He added that was ‘really worries’ him is some of the patients who haven’t been seen could have cancer and other urgent needs which have not yet been diagnosed. 

The coronavirus pandemic has added to the shocking increase in numbers because some hospitals don’t have the capacity to treat patients while keeping areas safe from infection.  

Some hospitals have even had to reduce bed numbers and limit operations. 

NHS hospitals have been warned they could face a fine if they are not at 90 per cent of their usual capacity levels by October. 

The NHS will still be able to access private hospital beds until March, but a letter from NHS England chief executive Sir Simon Stevens, said health services must aim to deliver a huge increase in care in NHS hospitals. 

The letter sets out plans to address as much of the NHS’s waiting list as possible before winter and to reduce the NHS alert level from four to three, The Times reported. 

Data from NHS England last month revealed that only 54,550 patients were admitted to hospital for treatment in May, which was a fraction of the 295,000 recorded this time last year.  

A lot of routine care was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic and hospitals are currently thought to be running around 60 per cent of their usual capacity. 

Thousands of non-urgent operations were cancelled at the peak of the pandemic and analysts revealed the NHS faces an ‘enormous challenge’ in catching up with the backlog of patients whose treatments were postponed. 

Sir Simon’s letter, co-signed by chief operating officer Amanda Pritchard outlines that hospitals should aim for 80 per cent of last year’s capacity in September. This will then rise to 90 per cent in October. 

A target of 100 per cent from September was outlined for outpatient first appointments and follow-ups. These can be done virtually or face-to-face. 

This year, 1.45 million patients have had to wait at least 18 weeks to start hospital treatment for routine operations such as hip and knee replacements. This is the worst since 2007 and more than double last May.   

Patients waiting for cancer treatment have also faced long waiting times with 47.9 per cent of diagnosed patients not starting life-saving treatments within two months.  

At the end of June, hospital bosses warned the coronavirus crisis could mean the NHS are unable to return to normal for as long as four years due to the treatment backlog. 

Experts said they believed the waiting list for operations could rise from 4.2million people to 10million by the end of the year. 

Group chief executive of Warwick hospital, George Eliot hospital in Nuneaton and County hospital in Hereford Glen Burley said: ‘It could be four years before waiting times get back to pre-Covid levels. We could see that. It’s certainly years, not months.’   

Imelda Redmond, national director of Healthwatch England which represents patient views, told The Independent: ‘For those living with pain or in need of treatment for a potentially life-threatening condition, any delay in recent months will have been incredibly worrying.’ 

Ross Kemp looks unrecognisable following wasp attack to his face and thanks NHS for treating injury

‘Our fantastic NHS!’ Ross Kemp looks unrecognisable after WASP attack leaves him with a swollen face as he thanks doctors for treating his injury

He’s visited some of the most dangerous territories across the globe. 

But Ross Kemp has experienced a new perilous interaction in the UK as he suffered a brutal wasp attack which left him with extreme facial swelling on Monday. 

The former EastEnders actor, 56, looked almost unrecognisable as he posted a clip of his face online and thanked the NHS for coming to the rescue. 

Wasp attack: Ross Kemp showed his horrendous facial swelling to his social media followers as a result of a wasp attack on Monday 

He entered a loft space on Monday but was unaware that wasps were in the vicinity, so they became aggressive from the disturbance.

The insects reacted by stinging Ross several times, causing his face to swell tremendously and leaving him with a protruding lip. 

He said in an honest video posted to Twitter: ‘I look like Mick Jagger don’t I, well that’s what happens when you get stung by three or four wasps in the nasal and lip area.

Taken by surprise: The investigative journalist, 56, entered a loft space, unaware that he had disturbed a group of wasps and was subsequently stung at least three times around his mouth

Taken by surprise: The investigative journalist, 56, entered a loft space, unaware that he had disturbed a group of wasps and was subsequently stung at least three times around his mouth

‘Be careful of those critters, don’t go upsetting them by opening up a loft space without asking their permission first.’ 

The TV hard-man had to go to hospital to try and reduce the inflammation, and he thanked the NHS for doing a ‘fantastic’ job and helping remedy his injury. 

Ross made a dad joke in reference to Mick Jagger’s famed song ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ as he served up a comical pout similar to his rock-star lookalike. 

Hospital visit: Ross showcased his engorged lip and joked that he looked like Mick Jagger before visiting hospital where he thanked the NHS for treating him

Hospital visit: Ross showcased his engorged lip and joked that he looked like Mick Jagger before visiting hospital where he thanked the NHS for treating him

He said: ‘Now being seen by our fantastic NHS. A very cool doctor’s just given me hydrocortisone, hopefully that’s gonna bring it down a bit.’

‘I just can’t get no satisfaction, ow, it hurts a bit.’ 

In April this year, the TV tough guy sparked outrage after he began filming an NHS documentary in an intensive care unit towards the start of the coronavirus outbreak. 

Ross was kitted out with PPE masks to stop the spread of the virus, but he still made the decision to push ahead with the documentary despite the apparent health risks. 

He posted a clip of himself wearing a mask while at the Milton Keynes Hospital during filming and the show subsequently aired in late April on ITV. 

Ross told his followers: ‘I’ve just been fitted for PPE and we’re about to go into an intensive care unit at Milton Keynes Hospital to witness the incredible efforts of medics treating Covid 19 patients. Please note we won’t be depleting the hospital’s PPE stock#COVID19 #coronavirus #nhs.’

On the frontline: Ross filmed a documentary at the intensive care unit at the Milton Keynes hospital where he investigated how the NHS are responding to the coronavirus pandemic

On the frontline: Ross filmed a documentary at the intensive care unit at the Milton Keynes hospital where he investigated how the NHS are responding to the coronavirus pandemic

He added: ‘I want to make it clear to everybody out there, even though we’re using NHS masks, we’re actually replacing those with the ones we have brought.

‘They are exactly the same standard and the Health Trusts are happy we are doing that. The reason we are wearing the same masks as the ones the doctors and nurses are wearing is so we don’t cause any alarm to the patients, so it’s about reassurance.

‘But I can assure you we are not taking anything from the NHS’.   

The show received over 6,000 tweets from concerned citizens who slammed the TV star for his ‘tasteless’ and ‘irresponsible’ decision to film in the ICU. 

Not happy: Ross' new documentary received 6,000 tweets from citizens who branded him 'tasteless' and 'irresponsible' for filming at a hospital in the middle of a pandemic

Not happy: Ross’ new documentary received 6,000 tweets from citizens who branded him ‘tasteless’ and ‘irresponsible’ for filming at a hospital in the middle of a pandemic

Nicola Sturgeon says she ‘wanted to cry’ over pictures of pubgoers with no social distancing

Nicola Sturgeon said she ‘wanted to cry’ over pictures of pubgoers gathering with no social distancing at the weekend as 27 cases of coronavirus are linked to one bar in Aberdeen. 

SNP MP Stephen Flynn today tweeted two photos he had spotted online of the city centre, where an outbreak took place in The Hawthorn Bar.

The MP said he was ‘scunnered’ by the images, which showed dozens of people queuing to enter pubs in the city.  

It comes as NHS Grampian announce 27 cases of the virus have been linked to the bar, adding it is ‘aware’ of photos being shared online of ‘extremely busy bars’.

Nicola Sturgeon, pictured above on July 27, said she ‘wanted to cry’ over pictures of pubgoers gathering with no social distancing at the weekend 

The First Minister gave the latest coronavirus figures at the Scottish Government’s daily briefing in Edinburgh on Monday, saying there have been no Covid-19 deaths in Scotland for the 18th day in a row.

Addressing the Aberdeen cluster, the First Minister earlier said there may be more than the 13 cases announced on Sunday.

She also thanked the owners of the Hawthorn bar, where the outbreak is believed to have started, and said that work is being done to address the cluster. 

The First Minister added the coronavirus outbreak was ‘exactly what we feared’ when the decision was taken to reopen the hospitality industry.

Retweeting Mr Flynn’s images on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon described the scenes as ‘dangerous’, warning it could result in the closure of more bars.

She said: ‘Spot on from @StephenFlynnSNP – Covid remains a real and present threat to our health and wellbeing.

‘Scenes like these are dangerous, and could easily result in pubs being closed again – which no one wants. We all have a responsibility here. Please, please everybody #keeptheheid.’

Mr Flynn, who represents Aberdeen South, said: ‘A bit scunnered by some of the photos appearing online from the city centre over the weekend.

‘Covid-19 has not gone away – as is evident from the cluster linked to The Hawthorn Bar. Should act as the wake-up call some folk clearly need.’  

NHS Grampian tweeted earlier on Monday: ‘We can confirm the number of cases detected in the Aberdeen COVID-19 cluster associated with The Hawthorn Bar now stands at 27.’

SNP MP Stephen Flynn today tweeted two photos he had spotted online of the city centre, where an outbreak took place in The Hawthorn Bar

SNP MP Stephen Flynn today tweeted two photos he had spotted online of the city centre, where an outbreak took place in The Hawthorn Bar

Retweeting Mr Flynn's images on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon described the scenes as 'dangerous', warning it could result in the closure of more bars

Retweeting Mr Flynn’s images on Monday morning, Ms Sturgeon described the scenes as ‘dangerous’, warning it could result in the closure of more bars

It added: ‘We aware that many photos have been shared on social media over the weekend of extremely busy bars and venues in Aberdeen. 

‘Our Environmental Health colleagues at Aberdeen City Council are in contact with licensees in the city to reiterate the safety rules and regulations. ‘

Dr Emmanuel Okpo, Consultant in Public Health Medicine, said: ‘It is not entirely surprising further cases have been detected. This virus is still circulating in our communities. It poses a risk to all of us.

‘People who have not gone to this bar, or who live in other parts of Grampian, should not assume they are somehow “safe”. 

‘If you develop the symptoms of COVID-19 – a loss of sense of taste or smell, a fever, or a new, continuous cough, isolate at home & arrange a test.’ 

The owners said customers who were there on July 26 tested positive but it was confirmed by NHS Grampian they are only showing mild symptoms.

Physical distancing measures were put in place within the pub and contact tracing is being carried out to identify any other potential cases.

Meanwhile, a total of 2,491 patients have died in Scotland after testing positive for Covid-19.

Ms Sturgeon said 18,694 people have tested positive for the virus, up by 18 from 18,676 the day before.

She said 11 of these new cases were in the Grampian area, though she could not say if these were linked to the outbreak in Aberdeen.

There were 265 people in hospital with confirmed Covid-19, no change on the previous day.

Of these, three were in intensive care, no change on the previous total. 

Nominate a health hero: Meet the mental health nurse battling her own demons

Do you know a Health Hero? The Daily Mail, in partnership with eBay and NHS Charities Together, wants you to nominate special people in the healthcare sector who have made a difference to your life, or to a loved one’s life. 

The winner of the award will receive a £5,000 holiday. To make a nomination, fill in the form below. 

Here, Jo Waters tells the story of a nominee who goes the extra mile for mental health patients…

Hayley McLellan is well known for being able to fix things. Last week, she repaired a patient’s washing machine by unblocking the filter, and helped another patient’s child with their homework to take the pressure off the parent, who suffers from depression.

And she’s not only a fixer: Hayley has also walked dogs, cleaned houses and cooked meals for patients too unwell to do these things for themselves. She’s even given up her own time to help patients move home — literally packing and shifting the boxes.

More recently, at the start of the pandemic, the 39-year-old stocked up on loo rolls to hand out to patients, delivered food parcels and collected prescriptions for people who were shielding. 

She loves baking and made home deliveries of her famous cheese and onion pies to vulnerable patients living on their own.

Even at Christmas time, she’ll make five or six extra dinners to drop round to those who she knows will be alone, as well as giving them a small gift because they won’t receive any others.

Recently, Hayley accompanied another patient to several medical appointments for cancer investigations. ‘The patient would only go if Hayley went with her,’ says Hayley’s manager, Jennifer Mack. So touched were the woman’s family, they contacted the local mayor to express their gratitude

And if she doesn’t quite walk on water, Hayley certainly isn’t one to let mere ice or snow get in the way of her work. She’s been known to drive out to a patient’s home and, finding the road impassable, put on her wellies and walk to their house to deliver essential prescriptions and food supplies.

At the Pennine Care NHS Foundation Trust, where she’s worked for ten years as a mental health nurse, her dedication is legendary.

Hayley’s official role involves managing a team of community mental health nurses, co-ordinating the care of 500 patients who have severe and prolonged mental illnesses, arranging home visits and clinic appointments as well as directly supporting patients herself.

But she does so much more than focus on mental wellbeing, as one of her patients, Amanda O’Boyle, who has nominated Hayley for the Daily Mail Health Hero Awards, explains: ‘She is always going out of her way to help others. She’s even picked me up before she started work to take me for procedures that I’ve needed.’

Recently, Hayley accompanied another patient to several medical appointments for cancer investigations.

‘The patient would only go if Hayley went with her,’ says Hayley’s manager, Jennifer Mack.

So touched were the woman’s family, they contacted the local mayor to express their gratitude.

‘She is incredible, always looking after everyone,’ says Jennifer. ‘She is very compassionate towards her patients and will often keep in contact with them for supportive chats long after they have finished being cared for in hospital.

‘One gentleman calls her every Friday afternoon, even though he’s no longer a patient, and she always makes time for him.

‘She looks after the staff, too, buying flowers and chocolates for her team to show her appreciation for their hard work — she treats them all like family.

‘She has a very loud laugh and manages to boost everyone’s spirits, which has been particularly important during the pandemic, when we’ve all been under such pressure.’

Nothing is ever too much trouble for Hayley, who lives with husband Scott, 43, an IT technician, and their children Caitlan, 21, Casey, 19, and Kenzie, 12, in Bacup, Lancashire.

Her commitment to her job is prodigious. She often stays late to get through mountains of paperwork, and frequently spends her days off dealing with emails and phone calls to keep on top of everything.

Nothing is ever too much trouble for Hayley, who lives with husband Scott, 43, an IT technician, and their children Caitlan, 21, Casey, 19, and Kenzie, 12, in Bacup, Lancashire

Nothing is ever too much trouble for Hayley, who lives with husband Scott, 43, an IT technician, and their children Caitlan, 21, Casey, 19, and Kenzie, 12, in Bacup, Lancashire

By way of explanation, Hayley says: ‘It’s not a clock-in, clock-out sort of job.’ As for all the extra help she offers patients: ‘I’ll do anything to keep their spirits up. If I can do something small to brighten someone’s day, I will.’

Such kindness has particular significance in what is arguably one of the most challenging sectors of the health service.

The coronavirus pandemic has been hard for everyone, but particularly so for people with severe mental health problems, she explains.

‘Perhaps the biggest issues have been the loneliness and the isolation,’ says Hayley.

‘People haven’t been able to attend their usual support groups or see family, so they can feel very alone — and that risks making their existing conditions worse.

‘In order to avoid this, I have been popping round to check on people all the time [wearing protective personal equipment].

‘You can’t leave depressed and suicidal people on their own for weeks on end — they need human contact.

‘In some cases, I’ve just said: “Come on, you need to get out for a walk,” and accompanied them for a stroll in the fresh air if they’ve been stuck indoors alone. That can make a real difference.’

And there are more and more people who need this kind of help. 

Why there’s no such thing as time off for transplant medic

By Lucy Elkins for the Daily Mail

Dr Jacob Simmonds sighs as he reads a card sent from a patient to mark the ten-year anniversary of her heart transplant.

Dr Simmonds, 44, a consultant cardiologist and transplant physician at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, has received many similar cards over the years

Dr Simmonds, 44, a consultant cardiologist and transplant physician at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, has received many similar cards over the years

‘She uses the word “lucky”, yet she developed heart failure as a result of leukaemia — not what most of us would call lucky,’ he says. ‘But it’s being able to help children like her that makes me so thankful to be in this job.’

Dr Simmonds, 44, a consultant cardiologist and transplant physician at Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, has received many similar cards over the years. 

It’s not hard to see why, given his extraordinary dedication to caring for seriously ill children, from newborns to teenagers.

For Dr Simmonds, 12-hour days are standard, and he often interrupts family holidays with wife Emma, 42, a lawyer, and their children, aged nine and 11, to check on his young patients. 

Even when he’s not meant to be working, Dr Simmonds can often be found on the wards, checking on children.

Typically his patients have cardiomyopathy — disease of the heart muscle — leading to heart failure, and the most severely affected eventually require a heart transplant.

‘The best part of my job is when a suitable donor organ is found,’ he says. Tragically, there are other children on the transplant waiting list who die. 

Determined to improve the outcome for these children, Dr Simmonds spends his evenings and weekends researching, collaborating with the Royal Papworth Hospital in Cambridge on a children’s version of ‘heart in a box’ technology.

This is where a donor heart has oxygenated blood pumped through it (rather than being kept cool), which increases the time that the organ can spend out of the body and means more hearts are available for transplant.

On average, children wait 250 days for a donor heart at GOSH, but it can be three or four years.

So far, since introducing the new technology this year, Dr Simmonds’ unit has done five transplants.

Anna Hadley, 15, who’d been on the waiting list for a donor heart for 20 months, was the first patient to benefit. Her father, Andrew, who is 49 and works in sales, cannot contain his gratitude. ‘Anna owes Jacob her life,’ he says.

In February 2018, the family’s care was transferred from their local hospital in Worcester to GOSH, as one of only two centres in the country that deal with paediatric heart failure.

The moment Anna met Dr Simmonds, she felt hope. ‘He makes things seem like everything is going to be all right,’ she says. The Hadley family, who have nominated Dr Simmonds for a Health Hero award, say he made not only Anna, but all of them feel cared for.

‘When we were at home waiting for the donor, he would ring to check on Anna and see how we were coping,’ says Andrew. ‘If the family called the transplant nurses with a question, often it would be Jacob who would call back.’

And as Anna waited outside the operating theatre earlier this year, Dr Simmonds was at her side.

‘He came in every one of the 15 days she spent in hospital afterwards to check on her, even though he wasn’t working every day.’

Even now, he ‘phones all the time to check on how Anna is’.

Dr Simmonds, who stays in touch with many former patients, isn’t only on hand for families, but for colleagues, too.

One of his roles is to mentor junior doctors, and he always gives them his mobile phone number to use, whether he’s on call or not, rather than leaving them to worry about making a decision.

Dr Craig Laurence, a heart failure and transplant fellow at GOSH who has worked with Dr Simmonds for a year, says: ‘There aren’t many other consultants who would make that clear an offer.

‘If that wasn’t enough, Jacob does sponsored walks to fundraise for equipment — as well as authoring more than 30 medical papers.’

His research work is making a big difference. Dr Laurence says the heart in a box adaptation ‘could increase the number of transplants we do by 30 per cent — it will be a game-changer’.

Dr Simmonds says he had dreamed of working at GOSH after seeing a TV programme about the hospital as a child. 

‘I was eight when I said I’d like to work at Great Ormond Street, which is quite a dream for a young boy,’ he laughs. 

As Hayley says: ‘We’re getting lots of new clients who are experiencing mental illness for the first time — they’ve lost their jobs, have money worries, their children are out of school or they have been bereaved. There are so many people suffering from anxiety and depression. Our team has had to work longer hours and we’ve all gone the extra mile.’

Hayley comes from a family of NHS workers — her grandmother and several aunts and uncles were all nurses, and her mother was an NHS support worker. She says she never considered any other career.

‘I can’t imagine ever not being an NHS nurse — it’s been my life since leaving college and I can’t think of anything better,’ she says. ‘I just love looking after people.’

She decided on mental health nursing from the start.

‘One of my aunts was a mental health nurse, so I heard a lot about it from her and thought it was an area where I could really help. Some people want to patch up broken bones, but for me it was always about supporting people with mental health issues.

‘To begin with, I saw it as a way of working with people who had drug and alcohol problems, as I’ve seen the impact this can have on families. When I started training, I really enjoyed it and felt I had empathy with the patients.’

More recently, that instinctive empathy has been informed by her own personal experiences. A couple of years ago, Hayley herself developed severe anxiety.

‘Like a lot of people, I had no obvious trigger for my anxiety — it just came out of nowhere,’ she says. ‘I was in a really dark place. I couldn’t leave the house and was off work for three months.

‘I’m usually a very positive, bubbly, upbeat person, always laughing, so it shows anxiety and depression can happen to anyone. Luckily it passed, and I learnt how to deal with my anxiety by taking long walks every morning before work. I walk for two hours with my husband and my dog — it’s very calming.

‘But that experience has given me a greater understanding of what some of my patients are going through. I make no secret of the fact that I had problems myself, I think it helps, as patients see it’s possible to move forward.

‘For me, there is nothing more rewarding than to see patients get better and for the families to say: “He’s a different man now, thank you.” That’s why I do this job.’

As for the cooking, the cleaning and the washing machine repairs, she says simply: ‘I just regard it as part of the role. If you’re a nurse, I believe you should help people in any way you can and make them feel looked after.’

RICHARD LITTLEJOHN: Get Britain out of this Covid coma NOW! 

Someone in Whitehall must have been watching the 1976 sci-fi movie Logan’s Run, starring Michael York and Jenny Agutter.

The film is set in a dystopian future where everyone is killed when they reach 30.

It’s the kind of radical, outside-the-box policy which would probably appeal to a blue-skies thinker like Dominic Cummings.

Drop Dead. Protect The NHS.

After all, practically no one under 30 is in mortal danger from Covid-19. But the risk increases exponentially the older you get.

Maybe that’s why ministers are considering a plan to quarantine everyone over the age of 50 in the event of a second wave this autumn. With the over-50s confined to barracks for ever, the chances of anyone catching coronavirus would be drastically curtailed.

In time, the Government could whittle down the cut-off to 30, Logan’s Run-style. That way, nobody would ever die of Covid and ministers could finally declare total victory over the virus.

Of course, the very idea is rip-roaring bonkers. But we’re told authoritatively it has been ‘war-gamed’ by Boris Johnson and Chancellor Rishi Sunak, along with locking down London by closing all the slip roads on the M25. Perhaps they intend to station armed guards on motorway bridges with the power to shoot anyone trying to escape.

When the news of the over-50s lockdown leaked, ministers started backpedalling and insisting that it wasn’t being ‘actively considered’. But the fact that it was even being considered at all, actively or otherwise, is disturbing evidence of the madness and panic which has engulfed this Government since March.

Ministers have been so spooked by the pandemic, they have lost all sense of proportion. How else would they even begin to entertain the notion that millions of people 50-plus should be put under house arrest indefinitely?

Most of us were happy to give them the benefit of the doubt at the beginning because nobody, including the so-called ‘experts’, was quite certain of what precisely we were dealing with.

Since then, however, the messages coming from Government have been increasingly incoherent and inconsistent. There appears to be no joined-up thinking at all. For weeks, this column has been highlighting the absurd contradictions — for instance, Dishi Rishi subsidising hamburgers and pizzas, while at the same time increasing spending on gastric-band surgery to combat obesity.

Ministers urge people in the private sector to get back to their desks, but cave in cravenly to the Civil Service and teaching unions who refuse to tell their members to go back to work, citing bogus ‘safety’ concerns.

Yesterday was supposed to be the day Britain got back down to business. But office blocks and transport hubs were practically deserted, while restaurants and fast-food joints were doing a roaring trade knocking out half-price meal deals, courtesy of the Chancellor hosing them down with money we haven’t got.

For weeks, this column has been highlighting the absurd contradictions — for instance, Dishi Rishi subsidising hamburgers and pizzas, while at the same time increasing spending on gastric-band surgery to combat obesity

For weeks, this column has been highlighting the absurd contradictions — for instance, Dishi Rishi subsidising hamburgers and pizzas, while at the same time increasing spending on gastric-band surgery to combat obesity

The suburbs are teeming with people spilling out of pubs and cafes, yet city centres still slumber, as if in permanent hibernation.

As long as the Treasury continues to top up the salaries of some nine million people on furlough, there’s no incentive for anyone to go back to the office.

Perhaps it’s time ministers and private employers followed the example of Charlie Mullins, the boss of Pimlico Plumbers, and started sacking anyone who refuses to return to work.

Instead, they’re considering a crazy scheme to force everyone over 50 to stay indoors, just to be on the safe side.

Speaking as someone who won’t see 60 again, let alone 50, I think I’ve probably been around long enough to work out for myself the inherent risks or otherwise of catching Covid.

My Generation may well have sung along with The Who, hoping to die before we got old.

But we’re not all decrepit just yet. We may not be the full Miss Jean Brodie, but some of us still think we’re in our prime.

Yes, we are well aware, thank you, that the older we get, we’re another day closer to death. And we realise that age increases the chance of succumbing to coronavirus. But the same goes for any illness, from heart disease to cancer — none of which are currently being treated properly by Our Amazing NHS, which has all hands focused on the Covid pump.

We certainly don’t intend to shut the door and throw away the key until the Grim Reaper comes a-knocking.

For ministers even to be contemplating locking down the over-50s is proof positive that this Government has lost the plot on an intergalactic level.

It would be economic suicide, at a time when the country is already teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

The over-50s are substantial taxpayers, and relatively big spenders on everything from leisure to financial services.

We are the backbone of Britain; the Bank of Mum and Dad; the carers for elderly relatives; babysitters for grandchildren. Many of us are running our own successful small businesses, creating wealth and much-needed employment.

All this, the Government appears willing to put into deep freeze because of an irrational fear of a virus we are learning more about each day.

That’s not to diminish in any way the early impact of Covid or the devastating effect it has had on the frail elderly (by which I mean the over-85s) and those who are morbidly obese or afflicted with serious underlying health problems. Sorry to sound callous, but many of these people would have died sooner rather than later anyway.

Looking at the international league table of new Covid infections yesterday, Britain is way down the list. Most of those contracting the virus now are asymptomatic.

So why has the Government gone into another blue funk, cancelling at the last minute plans to reopen everything from beauty parlours to casinos and considering a ludicrous proposal to quarantine millions of allegedly vulnerable over-50s?

From the outset, ministers have given too much credence to the ‘science’.

They have been unwilling to challenge the assertions of tunnel-vision experts like the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who appears to have been our real, unelected Prime Minister these past few months.

My fear all along has been that some of the more contentious decisions are based not on what is best for Britain, but what will protect individual politicians and their advisers when the inevitable public inquiry is held.

Risk-aversion is the order of the day. There is no boldness, no willingness to trust us with detailed information so we can assess the dangers for themselves.

Much of the nonsense coming out of Whitehall now seems to have been made up on the hoof, such as the stupid suggestion that if the schools are to reopen in September, then the pubs will have to shut.

Why? Who is asking these questions within government? Nobody, from what I can gather.

Covid has infantilised the nation. Policy is made in private, by unaccountable committees and scientists.

They have been unwilling to challenge the assertions of tunnel-vision experts like the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who appears to have been our real, unelected Prime Minister these past few months

They have been unwilling to challenge the assertions of tunnel-vision experts like the Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty, who appears to have been our real, unelected Prime Minister these past few months

With most MPs content to stay home in their constituencies since March, Westminster has become a ghost town. There has been no proper scrutiny of the Government’s handling of the crisis.

And now, after the exertions of all those Zoom sessions, Parliament is in recess as MPs enjoy six weeks’ paid holiday.

The Commons should be recalled immediately. If it’s safe for holidaymakers to sit cheek-by-jowl on aeroplanes, and for diners to enjoy cut-price piri-piri chicken and chips in state-subsidised restaurants, it should be safe enough for socially distanced MPs to reoccupy the green benches at Westminster.

Politicians should be leading by example, not relaxing on the beaches while our increasingly erratic leaders tinker with deranged schemes such as placing everyone over 50 under house arrest.

In the end, we’re all going to die of something. We can’t spend the rest of our lives trying to postpone the inevitable. Short of an effective vaccine, we will to have to learn to live with corona, in a grown-up fashion, for the forseeable future — not keep stumbling from one emergency lockdown to another.

Britain needs a serious plan to get us out of this catastrophic Covid-induced coma right now.