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Covid-19 patients with learning disabilities are not being resuscitated

patient wearing a wristband which reads do not resuscitate
patient wearing a wristband which reads do not resuscitate Image credit: dailymail.co.uk

The Care Quality Commission (CQQ) has revealed there were 508 cases where families were not involved when doctors made ‘do not resuscitate’ (DNR) decisions on behalf of patients since March 2020.

An investigation in February led by the CQQ shows people with learning disabilities are still not being offered DNR orders.

A number of Covid-19 patients with a learning disability were told they would not be resuscitated unless doctors had their family’s consent in January.

CEO for Mencap Edel Harris told The Guardian last month: "Throughout the pandemic, many people with a learning disability have faced shocking discrimination and obstacles to accessing healthcare, with inappropriate Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) notices put on their files and cuts made to their social care support."

NHS figures reveal around 1,220 people with a learning disability have succumbed to coronavirus since February 2020, 40 of the deaths were recorded during the week ending January 29, 2021.

A report from Public Health England concluded people with a learning disability aged between 18 and 34 are more likely to die from the condition compared to others in the same age bracket.

The study also revealed people with a learning disability carried a 6.3 greater risk of dying from the condition during the first wave of Covid-19.

Harris said: "It's unacceptable that within a group of people hit so hard by the pandemic, and who even before Covid died on average over 20 years younger than the general population, many are left feeling scared and wondering why they have been left out."

An NHS spokesman said: "The NHS has repeatedly instructed local clinicians and services that the blanket DNA(CPR) decisions would be unacceptable - including on three separate occasions in less than a month at the start of the pandemic, and again last week - and that access to treatment and care for people should be and is made on an individual basis in consultation with family and carers."

A study by the CQC and 2,048 adult social care providers found since 17 March 2020 there has been 508 DNAR decisions made without any involvement with the patient, carer or relative which suggests there was a potential breach of the Equality Act 2010.

Rosie Benneyworth, chief inspector of Primary Medical Services and Integrated Care at the CQC, said: "It is vital we get this right and ensure better end-of-life care as a whole health and social care system, with health and social care providers, local government and the voluntary sector working together.

Dan Scorer, head of policy at Mencap said the review highlighted "the urgent need for better staff training and support to ensure the right of people with a learning disability, and their families, to be involved in decisions about care and treatment is upheld".

In 2018, the British Medical Journal estimated that 1,200 people with a learning disability die avoidably in the NHS every year.