Care homes 'ordered not to resuscitate' at height of pandemic, report claims

April Roach
·3-min read
Social care staff have been on the front line of the coronavirus crisis: PA
Social care staff have been on the front line of the coronavirus crisis: PA

Care homes were told to introduce “do not resuscitate” orders for residents at the height of the coronavirus pandemic, a report has claimed.

The Queen's Nursing Institute (QNI) report also found that care home residents were regularly refused treatment in April and May.

One carer reported being told to change the status of all the home’s residents to “do not resuscitate” but said staff had refused to comply.

The QNI, a charity which focuses on the improvement of nursing care of people in their own home, said nursing homes were pressured into accepting patients with coronavirus while simultaneously being refused treatment for residents by hospitals and GPs.

It also said homes were told hospitals had a blanket “no admissions” policy at the height of the Covid-19 crisis.

The survey of nurses and managers in 163 care homes across England, Wales and Northern Ireland found 56 per cent said their physical and mental health had suffered due to the stress of the pandemic.

A nurse puts on PPE (personal protective equipment) at the Wren Hall care home in Nottingham (AP)
A nurse puts on PPE (personal protective equipment) at the Wren Hall care home in Nottingham (AP)

Seventy homes, 43 per cent of those surveyed, said they had received a patient discharged from hospital during March or April that had not been tested for the virus.

One nurse said: “The acute sector pushed us to take untested admissions.

“The two weeks of daily deaths during an outbreak were possibly the two worst weeks of my 35-year nursing career.”

Professor Alison Leary MBE, Director of the International Community Nursing Observatory ICNO and Professor of Healthcare and Workforce Modelling at London South Bank University, called for an inquiry into the matter.

She told the Telegraph: “I was quite surprised how many people reported issues with DNRs as I was expecting one or two, but that 10 per cent of the respondents raised an issue, because they were either blanket decisions for whole populations, or they were imposed without discussion with the care home or the family or the residents, is really worrying.

“These decisions were being made by NHS managers not clinicians. And this wasn’t just happening with elderly people, it was those with learning disabilities or cognitive problems of all ages."

A fifth of those surveyed said they had received a patient discharged from hospital who was Covid-19 positive.

One in four homes said it was difficult to get hospital treatment for patients, while a third said they had had difficulty accessing GPs and district nurses.

“It is clear from this survey that the care home workforce has faced very challenging issues," said Professor Leary.

"Many have felt unsupported and their wellbeing has suffered. We need to support this workforce to face the challenges ahead.”

Crystal Oldman, chief executive of the QNI, said she was worried by the number of homes that had been unable to access support from GPs, district nurses and hospitals.

“We were really surprised to see this,” she said. “These are universal health services. It is completely opposite to the protective ring around care homes that was being talked about at the time.”

In April a report by NHS Providers, a body representing more than 200 NHS trusts in England, boasted that the health service had freed up 33,000 beds by “tearing up red tape” and overhauling discharge policies.

It said in a report that “the NHS has completely rewritten its discharge procedures in a week to enable a much more rapid discharge process,” adding “hospitals have discharged record numbers of patients in record time”.

Additional reporting by PA Media.

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