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A GP surgery left some some of its sickest patients distressed after encouraging them to sign ‘do not resuscitate’ orders amid the coronavirus crisis.
Llynfi Surgery, in south Wales, has apologised after sending letters to some seriously ill patients underlining “several benefits” of completing “do not attempt CPR” forms.
The letter warns that, as hospitals are inundated with Covid-19 patients, those with serious conditions such as incurable cancer, motor neurone disease, and untreatable heart and lung conditions were “unlikely to be offered hospital admissions” and “certainly will not be offered a ventilator bed”.
It goes on to ask the patients to complete the form as “scarce ambulance resources can be targeted to the young and fit who have a greater chance” of recovering from the virus.
Chris Elmore, the Labour MP for Ogmore, and Welsh Assembly Member Huw Irranca-Davies say they were “deeply concerned” on Monday when they were contacted by a number of “worried constituents” in “distress” over the GPs’ plea.
Elmore said health chiefs from Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board were now “reaching out to those patients who received the original letter” to “offer compassionate and sound advice” about the crisis.
“We are of course deeply concerned by the content of the original letter and the distress it has caused our constituents and their families,” the two politicians said in a joint statement.
“These vulnerable members of our community need to be provided with the best advice possible during the pandemic, ensuring they are treated with care and compassion and respect, and following the correct public health advice.
“We sincerely hope Llynfi surgery and the health board provide that reassurance quickly.”
The letter sent out by the practice last week reads: “This is a very difficult letter for the practice to write to you.”
It adds: “We would therefore like to complete a DNACPR form for you which we can share … which will mean that in the event of a sudden deterioration in your condition because [of] Covid infection or disease progression the emergency services will not be called and resuscitation attempts to restart your heart or breathing will not be attempted.”
Signing the form would also mean “your GP and more importantly your friends and family will know not to call 999”, the letter adds.
It also cautions patients the risk of transmitting the virus to first responders is “very high” and that “by having a DNACPR form in place you protect your family [and] emergency responders from this additional risk”.
It adds: “For most people with these conditions, the best option is to remain at home and be cared for by [friends] and family with ongoing support from ourselves and community nursing services.”
The letter stresses to the patient that “we will not abandon you”, and adds “but we need to be frank and realistic”.
The Cwm Taf Morgannwg University Health Board issued a statement which said that it did not order the letter be sent and said the surgery has apologised for “upset” caused to patients.
“A letter was recently sent out from Llynfi surgery to a small number of patients,” a spokesperson said. “This was not a health board communication.
“The surgery have been made aware that the letter has caused upset to some of the patients who received it. This was not their intent and they apologise for any distress caused.
“Staff at the surgery are speaking to those patients who received the letter to apologise directly and answer any concerns they may have.”
It came as health chiefs confirmed on Tuesday that a further 393 people diagnosed with Covid-19 had lost their lives, bringing the death toll to 1,801.