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3 December 2020

Compassion in Dying responds to the Care Quality Commission’s (CQC) interim report on the use of DNACPR decisions during the pandemic

Compassion in Dying has contributed to the CQC’s rapid review, having supported hundreds of people with questions about DNR (do not resuscitate), and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in recent months.

Usha Grieve, Director of Partnerships and Information at Compassion in Dying, said:

“Compassion in Dying has contributed to the CQC’s rapid review, having supported hundreds of people with questions about DNR (Do Not Resuscitate, also known as Do Not Attempt Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation or DNACPR), and CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in recent months. Calls to our own information line on these issues have doubled in the past three months compared to the first five months of the pandemic. While some of these have involved people who have been given DNRs without proper explanation, causing understandable distress and confusion, the vast majority have been from people interested in DNR decisions who want to be protected from potentially harmful or futile CPR. Unfortunately some of those people are then ignored, dismissed or misunderstood when they attempt to discuss this with healthcare professionals. It is clear that there are serious problems with decision-making and communication around DNRs right across the spectrum, which have been exacerbated by the pandemic and must be addressed as a matter of urgency.

“Recent polling has found that more than half of people do not understand how DNR decisions are made, that decisions must be explained to patients and families, or that if a DNR decision is made they will still receive other care. However, patients are open to having these conversations, with more than three-quarters of people saying they would welcome or be willing to talk to a clinician raising the topic of DNRs with them. If we are to ensure that end-of-life care is truly person-centred and lawful, then we cannot shy away from having these important conversations in a timely, open and sensitive way. We also need clear, national information for NHS staff and for patients and families, and we call on NHS England and Improvement to publish their promised guidance on DNRs as soon as possible.

“Compassion in Dying will continue to speak out against blanket decisions being placed on people without proper consultation or discussion, just as we will proudly support those who want to refuse treatments such as CPR. People should be at the heart of decisions about their care and treatment, and coronavirus can and should be seen as a catalyst for a more person-centred, compassionate approach to DNR and other end-of-life decisions”.


For more information or interview requests, please contact Ellie Ball, Media & Campaigns Manager at Compassion in Dying, on 07725433025 or

Notes to Editor:

Polling – YouGov, commissioned by Compassion in Dying

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2026 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 17th September 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

Most people did not know that a DNR decision is made if a clinician thinks that attempting CPR will do more harm than good (51%), that a DNR decision must be explained to a patient and/or their family (54%), or that a patient will still continue to receive other care if a DNR decision is made (51%).

The survey also found that, if a healthcare professional were to raise the topic of DNRs with them, more than three-quarters (77%) of people would either welcome the conversation (38%) or be willing to explore the topic, even if it worried them (39%). Just 6% said they would not want to talk about it.

About Compassion in Dying

We can help you prepare for the end of life. How to talk about it, plan for it, and record your wishes.

We help people through our free information line, publications and resources, and through our work with diverse communities. We specialise in supporting people to make Advance Decisions (‘Living Wills’) and to talk about their goals and priorities when living with a life-changing illness. Our free MyDecisions website helps people to record their wishes for care in a legally binding way.

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