Older people are being pressurised into signing ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) forms as a means of alleviating some of the pressures faced by the NHS during the Coronavirus crisis, a group of elderly care charities have warned.
The charities warn they are “seeing shocking examples where blanket decisions seem to be being made about the care and treatment options that will be available to older and vulnerable people.”
In an open letter published today, the charities describe the cruel practice as “shameful and unacceptable” and call for the policy to be immediately scrapped.
The open letter, signed by executives from nine leading elderly care charities including Age UK and Independent Age, says “many of the people affected have experienced fear and anxiety” and have been made to “feel that their lives and wishes do not matter.”
It continues: “Difficult and painful decisions will need to be made in the weeks ahead, but these must be made on a case-by-case basis, taking account of the risks and benefits, and people’s own wishes, through honest discussions between patients, doctors and families.
“Whether or not to sign a DNA-CPR form is an individual’s decision, and they have a right to make that decision without feeling pressurised.”
The charities say they they understand that the NHS and social care sectors are facing “significant pressures”, but add that “it is crucial that we continue to protect people’s fundamental human rights.”
The letter states: “It would be completely unacceptable to abandon these rights in favour of taking blanket, discriminatory decisions.”
“It is also crucial that governments and health services across our four nations carefully consider the ways they can provide stronger leadership and guidance – to ensure that people’s rights are upheld and communication with vulnerable people is handled in a far more sensitive way to avoid further worry and upset as we navigate the difficult path ahead of us.”
The news comes after Welfare Weekly reported on a letter sent to NHS patients by a GP surgery in Bridgend, which invited them to sign DNR forms to help protect NHS resources.
The letter claims that people suffering with degenerative or incurable illnesses are “unlikely to be offered hospital admission if they become unwell and certainly will not be offered a ventillator bed.”
It asks patients to “complete a DNACPR form” – do not administer/attempt CPR – “which would mean that in the event of sudden deterioration in your condition because of COVID-19 infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart will not be attempted.”
The GP surgery has since apologised for the wording of the letter, adding that the recommendation that vulnerable patients complete DNR forms was not a health board requirement.
A spokesperson said: “A letter was recently sent out from Llynfi surgery to a small number of patients. This was not a health board communication.
“The surgery have been made aware that the letter has caused upset to some of the patients who received it. This was not their intent and they apologise for any distress caused.
“Staff at the surgery are speaking to those patients who received the letter to apologise directly and answer any concerns they may have.”