Brits may be denied life-saving care if a severe coronavirus outbreak is unleashed on England and heaps pressure on hospitals struggling to cope.
In the protocol dubbed “three wise men”, senior consultants in every hospital in the country would take the decision on rationing care and beds, should staff be overwhelmed with patients.
They also blasted the Government’s claim that the NHS was well prepared for a major pandemic as “dishonest spin”.
Doctors said the NHS’s critical care capacity is overstretched and “would crumble” under the demands of a major surge in patients struck down by a pandemic.
Those who would be denied care could be coronavirus patients and seriously ill people, with priority care being given to those most likely to survive.
The 'three wise men' plans were drawn up following the disastrous 2009 swine flu pandemic but are still part of several NHS procedures.
One consultant told The Independent: “If you can imagine the real worst-case scenarios where supply massively out by demand we would have to refuse to admit many people who would normally get ventilated.
“The Committee on Ethical Aspects of Pandemic Influenza developed Three Wise Men for that circumstance – everyone matters equally, but not everyone gets treatment equally – the goal is to minimise the harm the pandemic causes.”
He continued: “We barely coped with a standard winter, which helpfully had an early flu spike - so everything didn’t hit at once, the idea that we can cope with a pandemic is nonsense.”
The doctor told the publication his own hospital’s plans included axing elective operations for hip and knee surgeries.
“If this is like the 2009 flu it’s going to be very bad. We’re in a worse position than we were then. If it’s worse than that we’re going to be in deep trouble.”
When asked about the Government’s claim that the NHS is well prepared a critical care consultant from a south London hospital told the publication: “On a person by person basis it (coronavirus) is nothing to worry about.
“As an NHS we would crumble of under the weight of those who need critical care.”
Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have escalated recently, with more than 81,000 cases being reported worldwide and every continent except Antarctica registering cases.
Daily Star Online has approached the Department of Health and Social Care for comment .