NHS Dumfries and Galloway is among a number of Scottish health boards who have no record of how many do not resuscitate (DNR) notices have been issued during the Covid-19 pandemic, according to research compiled by Scottish Labour.
South Scotland Labour MSP Colin Smyth has branded the news “a complete mess”, especially as at the start of the Covid-19 crisis, DNR orders were causing stress and worry to both health care workers and local people.
Colin Smyth has also insisted the Health Secretary act now to modernise the way in which DNR notices are assigned to patient’s files.
In response to a Freedom of Information request from Scottish Labour, all health boards in Scotland that have replied to the request for information have stated that they have no way of knowing how many DNR notices have been issued.
Throughout the pandemic Colin Smyth received many reports from constituents of DNR notices being issued to patients who in normal circumstances would not have been eligible for one, and of family members being asked to sign DNR notices for vulnerable relatives.
The Minister for Older People, Christina McKelvie, stated in June that the Scottish Government did not know why so many DNR notices had been issued and put it down to a ‘panic’ among medical staff.
Colin Smyth said: “The fact that NHS Dumfries and Galloway is among those health boards who do not have information on how many DNR notices were issued during the Covid-19 crisis is shocking, it is a complete mess.
“How are NHS and health and social care staff meant to operate with such systems in place?
“Throughout this pandemic I have heard from many distressed relatives who have been asked to sign DNR notices for family members, including for those who are physically healthy.
“That the Scottish Government has blamed this on a ‘panic’ among clinicians is nothing short of an attack on the hard-working NHS professionals that have worked so hard to keep us safe during the pandemic.
“I spoke to some staff in GP surgeries who said they were openly embarrassed that they were being asked to telephone patients to ask if they wanted to sign DNRs, knowing what the answer would be before they had picked up the telephone. However, they had little choice but to make the call because of the clear direction from the Scottish Government.
“It is time for the Health Secretary to take action to modernise the process of issuing a DNR notice to ensure that we know how many are being issued and why and people are never again seen to be put under pressure to sign them.”