RCUK Press statement in response to concerns about emergency decision making

7 April 2020 (Updated 9 April 2020)

“We are working in unprecedented times for the NHS and doing so on what is effectively a wartime footing. 

A major role of Resuscitation Council UK is to review the evidence available both nationally and internationally, and then provide best practice guidance for our colleagues in the health service. This includes recommending treatment that offers patients their best chance of survival, whilst also ensuring the safety of healthcare professionals and making the best use of beds, ventilators, and other resources at this most difficult time.  

We’re in continuous dialogue with our clinical experts to ensure that the guidance we provide is both pragmatic and safe, for clinicians and patients alike. As with so many aspects of COVID-19, evidence bases are sparse and we need to adapt quickly to rapidly-changing circumstances. 

At this stage, we are not advocating for a blanket approach to decisions on whether or not to attempt to resuscitate individuals in an emergency, irrespective of whether they are suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19.

The ethical and legal principles set out in ‘Decisions relating to cardiopulmonary resuscitation’ remain valid. All conversations and decisions are individual to the person involved. We do encourage people to have discussions in advance, and make decisions at this time to guide the medical team having to make rapid decisions in a future emergency, when a person may be too unwell to make choices about their treatment.   

The reality is that each case will be individually complex, with survival determined by a combination of the seriousness of, and stage of, COVID-19 that the patient has reached, their pre-existing conditions, their frailty and age. This combination will vary uniquely from person to person. We recognise also that different pressures, infection rates, and complex situations will arise in different localities, necessitating variation in practices and in the application of guidelines.”