Elderly patients being questioned about resuscitation

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It has been revealed that elderly patients are being asked whether they are willing to agree to a ‘do not resuscitate’ order, during nurses’ home visits. If they agree, this will act as an instruction to medics to allow them to die should their heart stop.

Nurses have been questioning patients about sensitive medical issues, such as whether they want doctors to restart their heartbeat. This has occurred during the nurse’s first patient visit.

These surveys are provided to nurses in an NHS Employers template which list the questions they may want to pose to certain patients. However, the ‘do not resuscitate’ order question has been asked by nurses when they have just met the patient.

Many medics have criticised this action as they claim that older, frail patients may feel that they are under pressure to agree to the request.

The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Peter Carter, said that only those nurses who have developed a relationship of trust with patients should be able to pose these sensitive questions. He said he has never come across this situation before as only nurses who have developed a meaningful relationship with a patient should be allowed to ask these questions. He added that it was quite extraordinary that nurses should have to ask patients where they want to die and sign a form to attest to that. He said that nurses should not be placed in this difficult position.

Roy Lilley, a health policy analyst, described this new policy as ‘outrageous’ after his mother was offered the form. He said that frail, elderly, but healthy patients are being asked to sign a form related to their resuscitation by a complete stranger.

A spokeswoman from NHS England confirmed that this question was on a template which was provided to medical staff by the HR organisation of the health service, NHS Employers.

She said that nurses should use compassion and discretion when they deal with patients and the form stipulates that this particular question should only be asked if it is appropriate to do so, and that time is definitely not during the first visit.

Image Credit: Alex

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