DNR orders being put on files of patients with learning difficulties

DNR orders being put on files of patients with learning difficulties

December 1, 2020

‘Do Not Resuscitate’ orders are being ILLEGALLY put on files of adult patients with learning difficulties, charity warns

  • MPs ordered urgent review into ‘appalling’ practice, calling for end by Christmas
  • Learning disability charity told MPs those they helped were ‘not valued as equal’ 
  • Doctors take the final responsibility for issuing a Do Not Attempt Resuscitation order but those affected by the decision and their families should be consulted 

Do not resuscitate orders are being placed illegally on the medical files of adults with learning disabilities, a charity warned yesterday.

MPs responded by ordering an urgent review into the ‘appalling’ practice, calling for it to be brought to an end by Christmas.

It is feared wrongful use of the orders could be denying vulnerable people life-saving treatment during the pandemic.

Steve Scown of Dimensions UK, a learning disability charity, told the Commons health and social care committee that those his fund helped were ‘not valued as equal members of society’.

He added: ‘We’ve seen that with the number of DNARs (do not attempt resuscitation) that have been placed on people that we support without any consultation with their families or anybody who knows their best interests.

A charity has told MPs adult patients with learning difficulties are being made subject of Do Not Attempt Resuscitation orders and that they are not ‘valued as equal members of society’

‘There is a fundamental problem with how people with learning disabilities are valued within society and within the system.

‘The fact that they were just placed on files without any meaningful conversation with families or any other professional is just frankly disgraceful.’

Doctors take final responsibility for issuing a DNAR but those affected and their families should be consulted.

The orders mean that patients might not be taken to hospital if they go into cardiac arrest while in care accommodation.

Jeremy Hunt, a former health secretary who chairs the Commons committee, called for the NHS to detail a response to the issue by December 18.

Tory MP Greg Clark demanded an urgent stop to the automatic application of DNAR notices.

He said: ‘It seems to me appalling that this should be going on.

‘It is concerning this has not been picked up through the automatic process of review within the NHS – now that it has come to public attention surely there must be a very urgent mobilisation to put a stop to it.’

Conservative MP Greg Clark (pictured) has ordered an urgent review into ‘appalling practice’

Professor Ramani Moonesinghe, critical care chief for NHS England, said an internal review would be undertaken.

In September a University of Bristol report found that learning disabilities was wrongly being used as justification to apply the orders during the pandemic.

The report found that although the orders were applied correctly to most adults with learning disabilities, others were made in breach of the Mental Capacity Act.

Learning Disability England, a charity, said a fifth of its members had noticed the ‘blanket’ use of DNAR orders against guidance.

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS has repeatedly instructed local services, clinicians and managers that the blanket application of DNRs is totally unacceptable.’  

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