Coronavirus comments ‘taken out of context’, says dementia expert nurse

June Andrews says pandemic quotes were misrepresented, yet NHS pressures remain overlooked

Dementia nursing expert June Andrews giving evidence to the Scottish Parliament's audit committee in Edinburgh
Dementia expert June Andrews gives evidence to the Scottish Government’s
audit committee in Edinburgh on 5 March  Picture: Scottish Parliament/PA Wire

A leading dementia expert nurse has said comments she made about a coronavirus pandemic being ‘useful’ in taking ‘a number of older people out of the system’ were taken out of context.

Writing in a blog post, Dementia Services Development Trust advisor June Andrews said she has been subjected to ‘unfair insulting publicity’ since speaking at a Scottish Government public audit committee meeting last Thursday.

Comments about the implications of a pandemic

Professor Andrews, an RCN fellow who received an OBE for services to people with dementia in 2016, told Nursing Standard that her words had been quoted out of context in the media. 

She told politicians at the meeting: ‘If you’re on the board of a care home company, a pandemic is one of the things you think about as a potential damage to your business because of the number of older people it is going to take out the system.

‘Curiously, ripping off the sticking plaster, in that hospital I’m thinking about that has 92 delayed discharges, a pandemic would be quite useful because then your hospital would work because these people would be taken out of the system.’

She said while her comments sounded ‘horrific’, they were an honest assessment of what could happen.

‘Politicians should stop blaming NHS managers, because their task is impossible’

Professor Andrews told Nursing Standard she had spent her career supporting older people and was at the committee meeting to argue that the jobs of nurses and NHS managers were now unmanageable because of a lack of workforce planning and funding.

She told the meeting that under the current system many frail older people who were medically fit were stuck in hospital because there was nowhere for them to go and no home care package available.

‘Two years ago, in a paper I wrote about workforce issues, I said something that could temporarily solve the problem was a pandemic. At that time, there hadn’t been a great pandemic and statistically something like that should have happened by then. I more or less said to the politicians [on Thursday] “are you hoping the pandemic will take away this problem for you?”,’ she said.

Professor Andrews added in her blog that she had told the committee ‘this mess is only going to increase unless something radical is done’.

‘Most of what I said at the meeting was that the politicians should stop blaming NHS managers for failing, because their task is impossible,’ she wrote.

‘So someone took the phrases and presented me to the world as advocating ethnic cleansing of the elderly.’

Research shows older patients more likely to die from Covid-19

Some 273 people in the UK had tested positive for Covid-19 as of 9am on Sunday.

The first major research study from China on the epidemiological characteristics of COVID-19 shows patients who were aged over 60 and retired had the highest fatality rate, at 5.1%.

In other news