Leonard: Do not resuscitate order system needs modernised

Scottish Labour leader calls for more transparency on how many DNR notices have been issued by health boards.

The system of recording do not resuscitate orders (DNRs) should be modernised, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard has said.

Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, allegations have surfaced of people being pressured into signing the orders, which mean efforts will not be made to revive them should their heart stop beating.

Following a freedom of information request from the party to Scotland’s 14 NHS boards, none of the six respondents could say how many DNRs had been issued in their area.

Every health board that responded said such information is not held centrally and would require a trawl of patient files.

Leonard has called on health secretary Jeane Freeman to improve the recording of such information so they can be publicly disclosed.

He said: “The fact that health boards have no idea how many DNR notices have been issued simply beggars belief.

“In 2020 we should be beyond using archaic paper systems to record these important patient decisions.

“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.

“The Scottish Human Rights Commission has stated that they believe the human right to life may have been infringed in Scotland’s care homes. We need to know what role the issuing of DNR notices may have played in this.

“This has been nothing short of a fiasco, and a fiasco that has caused distress to many people. The health secretary owes it to those people to get rid of this archaic system once and for all.”

Last month, equalities minister Christina McKelvie told the Equalities and Human Rights Committee at Holyrood she did not know why a small number of doctors were pushing DNRs, adding it could have been down to “panic” at the beginning of the pandemic.

Mr Leonard said: “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.”

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