Alliance Health Spokesperson Paula Bradshaw MLA has welcomed confirmation from the Health Minister ‘do not resuscitate’ notices are issued to patients here on an individual basis, after it emerged they had been given to those with learning disabilities in England during the pandemic.
Earlier this year, the charity Mencap said it had received reports from people with learning disabilities in England they had been told they would not be resuscitated if they were taken ill with COVID-19. The Care Quality Commission has said the same practice had caused potentially avoidable deaths in 2020.
As a result, South Belfast MLA Ms Bradshaw wrote to Robin Swann to enquire if they practice also took place in Northern Ireland. The Minister has now responded, to say ‘blanket decisions on cardiopulmonary resuscitation based solely on age, disability or a senior clinician’s view of quality of life are discriminatory and unethical. All treatment decisions must be individual to each patient and follow the relevant professional and legal frameworks’.
“It is disgraceful these notices were applied to COVID-19 patients with learning disabilities by NHS England,” said Ms Bradshaw.
“That is why I wrote to the Health Minister to ask about the use of them in Northern Ireland. I am glad to receive confirmation decisions here were taken on an individual basis. I also welcome news work is underway to develop an advance care planning policy for adults.
“Given figures show those with a learning disability have sadly been more likely to die as a result of COVID, it is essential GPs vaccinate this cohort as quickly as possible. I hope those who have already been vaccinated, as well as their families, are feeling a sense of relief.
“I am grateful to Mencap for their campaign to ensure people with a learning disability were prioritised by JCVI and for speaking out against the discriminatory use of do not resuscitate notices. It is clear from the professional guidance cardiopulmonary resuscitation should not be solely based on age, disability or a senior clinician’s view on quality of life. It is wrong and it is unethical.”