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‘Extremely concerning’: Cabinet Secretary on DNR form given to 88-year-old woman after hospital stay

Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.
Ninewells Hospital in Dundee.

The case of an 88-year-old woman given a do not resuscitate form following a stay at Ninewells Hospital is “extremely concerning”, the Cabinet Secretary for Older people has said.

Health bosses at NHS Tayside apologised earlier this week after a “confused” elderly woman left Dundee’s Ninewells Hospital with the Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation form, known as a DNR.

The issue only came to light after Catriona Black found the form, in the bag of her 88-year-old mother, after she returned from a 12-night stay in the hospital.

The form means health professionals will not use CPR to try to restart the heart and breathing of a patient.

Speaking during virtual portfolio questions, North-east MSP Bill Bowman said “shocking incidents” like these will have a “real impact” on the public perception and the morale of elderly Covid-19 sufferers.

Shirley-Anne Somerville.

Shirley-Anne Sommerville, Cabinet Secretary for Social Security and Older People, said the particular cases raised is an “extremely concerning one”.

She added: “Everyone should be supported by health and social care services and treated with sensitivity, dignity and respect.

“Absolutely no one should be pressured to agree to a specific care plan or to complete a do not attempt CPR form.

“I want to make absolutely clear that the Covid-19 outbreak has brought no change to the use of do not attempt CPR forms in the Scottish NHS so I would encourage everyone to make sure that message is out there loud and clear.

“I do appreciate there has been concern about this issue.  The case that the member raises is an extremely concerning one.

“I understand the health board has apologised and rightly so and are reviewing the circumstances around that specific case.”

This only emerged because of the family – has this happened elsewhere?”

MSP Bill Bowman.

Ms Black said her mother was disorientated and confused and has been worrying about the form.

She went to Ninewells Hospital on May 7 after she began to suffer hallucinations after a fall.

The family were not able to visit the hospital due to coronavirus, but two daughters spoke to their mum on the phone during her stay.

Ms Black previously told BBC Scotland: “It was just overwhelming to discover there was something as major as that and no one had heard.

“I just don’t think that was the time or the place because I don’t think she was fully lucid at any point.

“You don’t ask somebody a question like that at a moment of weakness and say: ‘Tick the box’. That’s her. She’s a DNR, and then never discuss that again with them.”

Charity Age Scotland said older people are being pressured to sign the forms, despite repeated statements from First Minister Nicola Sturgeon that this should not be happening.

NHS Tayside has apologised and said it would carry out an “immediate review” into the circumstances of the DNR given to Ms Black’s mother.

North East MSP Bill Bowman.

Reacting to Ms Somerville’s response, Mr Bowman said: “I appreciate the cabinet secretary giving this extremely serious set of circumstances the proper attention.

“Incidents like these do cause problems for morale among the most vulnerable in the Covid-19 outbreak.

“This only emerged because of the family – has this happened elsewhere?

“I intend to pursue the outcome and lessons learned at both health board and Scottish government level, so this cannot happen again.”

A spokesperson for NHS Tayside said: “We have spoken with the family and apologised for any distress caused to them from finding her ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form amongst her belongings.

“We are very sorry for the upset this has caused and we have offered to meet with the family so that they have the opportunity to discuss their concerns and ask any questions.

“We have assured them that we will be carrying out an immediate review into the circumstances surrounding the completion of her ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ form.

“Once the review is concluded we will share the outcomes with the family and any lessons learned will be implemented as a matter of urgency.”

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