Supporting ethical decision making in a post-Covid NHS

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Researchers at the University of Liverpool are leading a new project to support ethical decision making in healthcare in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Covid-19 completely disrupted the NHS with all but the most urgent and essential of non-Covid services suspended or re-organised. This has led to significant ethical issues for providers of non-Covid patient care when deciding how to prioritise and reconfigure their services.

An interdisciplinary team led by Dr Lucy Frith in the Department of Public Health and Policy at the University of Liverpool has received £258K funding from the UKRI AHRC Covid-19 call to support ethical decision-making in this new era.

“The risks of new waves of Covid-19, local lockdowns already affecting parts of the country and imminent winter pressures, mean that services will need to be continually reorganised and some hard decisions made,” explains Dr Frith.

“As the NHS responds to changes to non-Covid healthcare provision brought about by the pandemic we need to know how best to support NHS trusts and practitioners in making crucial ethical decisions that affect the delivery of non-Covid healthcare.”

The project will focus on maternity care and paediatrics as two of the non-Covid areas which have been significantly affected by the response to the pandemic. The team will conduct an ethical analysis of current policies and processes guiding the reorganisation of NHS services. They will also interview healthcare providers, those delivering care and service users to better understand their perspectives on the resetting of services. Their findings will be used to develop and pilot test approaches to ethics support tailored to the needs of professionals working in these settings. A fair and transparent ethical framework for the reset phase, based on interactions with relevant stakeholders, will be produced to guide decision-making by policymakers and NHS staff.

The rest of the interdisciplinary project team is made up of Professor Heather Draper and Dr Paul Baines at the University of Warwick, Dr Anna Chiumento at the University of Liverpool and Professor Sara Fovargue at Lancaster University.

For more information please email Dr Lucy Frith at frith@liverpool.ac.uk