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UK

Nurses to decide on resuscitation

LONDON (Reuters) - Doctors are to allow experienced nurses to decide whether to resuscitate patients when their hearts stop or if they stop breathing, the British Medical Association said on Saturday.

Beds lie empty in the emergency room of Tulane University Hospital in New Orleans February 14, 2006. Britain's doctors are to allow experienced nurses to decide whether to resuscitate patients when their hearts stop or if they stop breathing, the British Medical Association said on Saturday. REUTERS/Lee Celano

Previously only doctors have been allowed to resuscitate patients, but the BMA, in conjunction with the Royal College of Nursing and the Resuscitation Council has issued new guidance.

“The majority of the time it will be doctors that make the decision, but sometimes the person in charge of a patient’s care is a very senior nurse,” Dr Vivienne Nathanson of the BMA told the BBC.

“We feel it’s daft if the advice of a nurse, who knows the patient best, should be second guessed.”

“We’re not talking about a nurse who has just qualified, we’re talking about a very experienced nurse -- a nurse consultant -- who has been given clinical leadership duties anyway.”

The survival rate following a heart attack even when cardiopulmonary resuscitation is performed is relatively low.

If a patient is in hospital and has a heart attack they would have only a 15 to 20 percent chance of surviving and outside of hospital the survival rate drops to between five and 10 percent following cardiac arrest.

But the Patients Association expressed reservations about the new rules.

“I do think woolly expressions like ‘suitably experienced’ are not quite adequate and patients may be concerned,” said Michael Summers, a Patients Association spokesman.

“The guidelines seem to disregard things like living wills, family consultation and the implications of the Mental Capacity Act, which give patients certain rights and have only just come into power.

“If we’re going to have guidelines I think they should be more specific.”

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