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Inquiry begins into blanket use in England of Covid 'do not resuscitate' orders

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An urgent investigation into blanket orders not to resuscitate care home residents has been launched amid fears some elderly people may still be affected by the “unacceptable” practice.

After COVID-19 cases rose slightly in care homes in England in the last week, with 116 residences handling at least one infection, the Care Quality Commission (CQC) said it was developing the scope of its investigation “at pace” and it would cover care homes, primary care and hospitals.

In March and April, there were reports that some GPs had applied “do not attempt resuscitation” (DNAR) notices to groups of care home residents that meant people would not be taken to hospital for potentially life-saving care. This was being done without their consent or with little information to allow them to make informed decisions, the CQC said. Cases emerged in care homes in Wales and East Sussex.

Care homes said the blanket use of the orders did not appear to be as prevalent ahead of a possible second wave of infections and families were reporting fewer concerns, although that could be because visiting restrictions meant they had less access to the homes and were getting less information.

There are also concerns that steps may not have been taken to review DNAR forms added to care home residents’ medical files, and so they could remain in place, without proper consent.

The CQC review will examine the use of “do not attempt cardiopulmonary resuscitation” (DNACPR) notices, which only restrict chest compressions and shocks to the heart.

Dr Rachel Clarke, a palliative care expert in Oxford, has described the CPR process as “muscular, aggressive, traumatic” and said it often resulted in broken ribs and intubation. The review will also investigate the use of broader do not resuscitate and other anticipatory care orders.

“We heard from our members about some pretty horrific examples of [blanket notices] early in the pandemic, but it does not appear to be happening now,” said Vic Rayner, the executive director of the National Care Forum, which represents independent care homes. “DNAR notices should not be applied across settings and must be only used as part of individual care plans.”

It will also investigate the use of broader do not resuscitate and other anticipatory care orders.

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Source: The Guardian, 12 October 2020

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