In January 2011 I underwent urgent and totally unexpected heart surgery. The surgery in itself was successful but unfortunately I was left with troubling symptoms.
It took about three years to get that resolved, unfortunately only after I took serious issue with the attitude and performance of the consultant I was seeing. As a result I was put under the care of a different consultant. After performing an angiogram the consultant recommended additional medication and the splitting of two others between morning and night administration. Those simple steps resolved the ongoing symptoms and I am now restored to rude health.
I had relatively little exposure to issues concerning resuscitation, especially DNACPR decisions, until April 2012 when my elderly aunt was admitted to hospital due primarily to dehydration and a urine infection (she was also in the early stages of developing dementia).
One day I was talking to one of the senior nurses, who was helping with the application to transfer my aunt to a nursing home. During that conversation I noticed, quite by chance, that there was a “Do not attempt CPR” order on my aunt’s file. This came as a complete surprise to me as I had had no approach from anyone about this, despite it being clearly recorded in the file that I was (and still am) her formally registered Welfare Attorney. I had to raise major concerns with the hospital over its decision-making, documentation and communication failures. The great irony of all this is that I fully support the concept of appropriate DNACPR decisions and would have done so in respect of my aunt if I had been asked about it.
It was in the course of trying to resolve my aunt’s issues that I was invited to join a medical research committee, as a patient/public representative, that was reviewing the use and application of DNACPR orders. I was flattered and delighted subsequently to be invited to become a member of the Resuscitation Council (UK) Patient Advisory Group.
My son is a qualified paramedic working for the London Ambulance Service and he has also spent time with the HEMS (Helicopter Emergency Medical Service). He is currently a senior manager in the LAS but still finds time to offer me help and advice on what some of the resuscitation issues mean for those in the front line of healthcare provision!
It so happens that in the past I spent almost 20 years as an NHS Chief Executive, yet in that role I had no direct involvement with resuscitation services. I hope that my understanding of the NHS and its management will help me to represent the views of patients and members of the public in an effective way.
My aunt’s case demonstrated perfectly the importance of good process, good documentation, proper communication with appropriate relatives and Power of Attorney and proper review in matters such as this. I am delighted to be involved with the UK Resuscitation Council’s work to improve these vital aspects of, for example, CPR decision-making.