Blanket use of do not attempt resuscitation orders ‘completely abhorrent’

A blanket use of do not attempt resuscitation orders (DNARs) is “completely abhorrent”, a health minister has said.

Tory frontbencher Lord Bethell condemned the practice after concerns were raised over their imposition on some elderly care home residents during the coronavirus pandemic, without any consultation.

The minister also strongly denied any age limit had been introduced for receiving NHS treatment when tackled in the House of Lords, insisting such reports were “completely wrong”.

Labour peer Lord Hunt of Kings Heath (pictured), a member of the General Medical Council, said: “The distinction between different patient groups has particularly affected care home residents through the blanket use of do not resuscitate orders without explanation to patients and families.

“Will the minister make clear his abhorrence of this practice and can he say how he will ensure that the recent winter guidance in relation to this for adult social care will be followed in full?”

Lord Bethell: “There are no blanket DNAR notices.

“These are completely abhorrent, against the NHS constitution and we are not supporting those at all.

“He is entirely right that families should be consulted before any such measures are put in place.”

This was made “absolutely clear” in the recently published social care plan, he added.

Earlier, seeking to reassure peers, Lord Bethell said: “The NHS provides a comprehensive service available to all, irrespective of gender, race, disability or age.

“No guidance has been issued on the provision of appropriate treatment based solely on age.

“The NHS has issued guidance for the restoration of non-Covid-19 health services working on the principle that the most clinically urgent patients should be seen first followed by those who have been waiting the longest.”

Pressing the minister, Tory peer Lord Balfe referred to suggestions an advisory age limit of 75 was being brought in for treatment.

The former MEP said: “Is any age guidance given in any of the information sent out from his department?”

Lord Bethell said: “I can confirm very clearly that reports of any sort of age limit of the kind he referred to are completely wrong.”

Labour frontbencher Baroness Wheeler pointed to “widespread concern” that NHS measures introduced in response to Covid-19 “are having serious consequences with patients denied basic healthcare”.

She asked what steps were being taken to ensure vulnerable people, especially the elderly, are not “shut out” of GP surgeries.

Lord Bethell said: “I completely agree that we have to keep GP surgeries open for those who either choose or need face-to-face consultations.”

They had been written to by the NHS chief executive “urging them to be open and to have fair access to face-to-face consultations where necessary”, added the minister.

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