Covid: Ex-MP's husband 'had do not resuscitate order'

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Betty Williams' husband Evan died at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor last April
Image caption,
Betty Williams' husband Evan died at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor last April

A former MP is calling for an investigation following her husband's death amid growing concern over the use of do not resuscitate orders.

Former Conwy MP Betty Williams' husband Evan died at Ysbyty Gwynedd in Bangor last April after contracting Covid.

She said she had not been told about the decision on a DNR order - which she said was made the day he died - despite speaking to staff before his death.

The health board said it was unable to comment on individual cases.

In a statement, Betsi Cadwaladr University Health Board chief executive Jo Whitehead said: "I would like to offer my deepest condolences to Mrs Williams following the loss of her husband.

"Due to patient confidentiality, we are unable to comment on individual cases.

"We would urge her to contact us directly if she has any concerns."

But Ms Williams told BBC Radio Wales' Sunday Supplement she had already written to the new chief executive to highlight her concerns.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Former Conwy MP Ms Williams said the last time she saw her husband was when paramedics took him to hospital from their home

It comes as the care watchdog for England said individuals' human rights may have been breached in more than 500 cases where DNR decisions were made during the Covid pandemic.

Mr Williams, 79, died on Good Friday - 10 April - after being diagnosed with acute pneumonia.

Two tests for Covid had been returned negative but a third result came back positive following his death.

The last time Ms Williams saw her husband of 52 years was when paramedics took him to hospital from their home.

"I had a telephone call from a doctor telling me that his condition has deteriorated," she said.

"Nothing at all was said to me about DNR instructions," she said.

She said a DNR order was signed by two consultants.

Ms Williams, who stood down as a Labour MP more than a decade ago, said she wrote to the health board asking about the DNR order on 27 April and whether he had given his consent.

'Like pulling teeth'

She said she received confirmation on 12 June that he had not.

"It's like pulling teeth," she said.

"I had to drag this information out."

Image caption,
Betty Williams' husband called her two days before his death to say how unwell he felt

Ms Williams said she would again be writing to the chief executive asking her to "conduct an investigation into how she's going to deal with this".

Mr Williams had a lung condition as a result of working in a factory producing mining equipment in Penygroes.

"He was in hospital when he fell ill but was having physio in preparation for coming home," she said.

"There was a very sad occasion two days before he died. He rang me at 09:15 on the Wednesday and said to me in Welsh 'I've never been so ill in my life'."

Mrs Williams said he was "a wonderful husband and was brilliant with our disabled son".

"He carried so much of the burden when I was back and forth to London. His two grandsons in Groeslon miss him dearly. They thought the world of him."

First Minister Mark Drakeford stopped short of saying a review would be held into DNR orders when asked during an interview on BBC Politics Wales.

He said guidance had been given to the health service in Wales "early on in the coronavirus crisis" by the chief medical officer after a GP practice sent an "unfortunate letter" to patients last April asking them to sign DNR consent forms.

"If there's more to find out then we will definitely want to find out. I completely agree with that," he said.

"But I also want to be clear that, because we had an early incident, we were on top of this issue from right at the start of the pandemic."

Following the publication of the Care Quality Commission's report into cases in England, the Welsh Conservatives said they "pressed for clarity over this issue in Wales" because they felt "none has really been forthcoming".

Angela Burns MS, the party's health spokeswoman, said: "It's now essential that we have transparency over this matter, which mean some difficult and uncomfortable questions will need to be asked, and answered, including how many DNR notices have been applied in Wales without consultation - and how many, if any, have been acted on."

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