Elderly residents in Lewisham have voiced their concerns about having access to the advice the NHS is providing about COVID-19 because many don’t use technology including mobile phones.
They were speaking at a meeting of Lewisham’s Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG) – who are responsible for planning and buying NHS services for people living in Lewisham- where managers said that services were going online.
One audience member at the meeting in Catford on Thursday 12 March said: “The older you are the more of a problem this tends to be… that you may not actually have access to [new technology].
“Addressing people to websites and sending them text messages might not work.”
Another said they were concerned about the mental health of elderly people being asked to self isolate over the coming weeks and months.
They said: “I can see a possibility that will accelerate any mental health problems, so people who are left alone for weeks, or possibly months, it would have had a very bad effect on their mental health. This might lead to excessive dementia that otherwise would probably be kept at bay… I can say that as somebody over 80 myself I really wouldn’t want to be left alone for a couple of months it would be horrible.”
They added: “There was a worst-case scenario, which is very, very, concerning to everybody, as it is shown a very high percentage of fatalities. So many people got it wrong and they said that people over 80 should be completely left alone and that carers should not be going to them because that might spread the infection and so many of us should ostracize themselves I suppose.”
The Senior Clinical Director of the CGG – a group of Lewisham GP’s who are responsible for planning and buying NHS services – told those at the meeting that a lot of practices were sending regular texts about COVID-19, which include links to Public Health England.
Dr Charles Gostling said that although there would still be face-to-face GP consultations, as many as possible will go online.
Gostling said: ‘We may find that there going to be a lot more remote consultations. I suspect we won’t be stopping face-to-face consultations when safe and when absolutely needed. I think it will be a measured and tailored response according to the situation, but it’s developing.”
Dr. Faruk Majid, Chair of the CGG said: “Anyone who needs care won’t be denied care… the way that we are approaching healthcare will be to protect those people who are most vulnerable by taking them taking the measures we currently have.
“They should be self-isolating most people who are risk and have other conditions that are high risk.”
According to Age UK, more than 2 million people in England over the age of 75 live alone, and more than a million older people say they go for over a month without speaking to a friend, neighbour or family member. As the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, says the elderly should isolate for 12 weeks, this could dramatically affect the mental health of elderly people.