A PENSIONER has described a "sinister" episode at the Borders General Hospital (BGH) where a doctor invited him to reject the chance to be kept alive.

The Borders resident, who asked not to be named, told us that heart problems led to a visit to the Melrose hospital last week.

And while the pensioner was very satisfied with the overall standard of care, calling it "second to none", he was unnerved when asked whether he would like to sign a Do Not Resuscitate form.

The man, in his late 60s, said: "I found the encounter quite sinister and not what I expected on an urgent visit to hospital."

The BGH's medical director Cliff Sharp told the Border Telegraph that it is good practice to ask patients about their preferences.

He said: "The conversations need to be open, honest and sensitive and we run training to support staff to speak to their patients in this way."

The pensioner, reflecting on his visit, said he was checked over by cardiologists before being approached by a doctor who he did not believe to be "directly involved" with the treatment.

The pensioner said: "The doctor's sole purpose seemed to be to get me to agree to not being resuscitated should the need arise and to inform me that there was no guarantee that intensive care facilities would be available."

He added: "I do realise that there is a national emergency ongoing due to the coronavirus pandemic and doctors will have some awful decisions to make.

"I would however expect that all medical staff would do their utmost to save the lives of all patients and not to assume that once you become a senior citizen you can be culled as a matter of convenience."

When this newspaper put the pensioner's comments to Dr Sharp, the health boss said resuscitation is discussed routinely with certain types of patients.

He said: "The coronavirus pandemic has put more focus on what we would consider to be good practice in terms of discussing with individuals when they come into hospital what their preferences for care are.

"There are also associated issues with infection control related to coronavirus which may further impact on an individual’s choices.

"The conversations need to be open, honest and sensitive and we run training to support staff to speak to their patients in this way.

"We usually discuss both resuscitation and treatment goals - the extent of treatment that a patient may receive - as a matter of routine for patients who require a hospital stay, or for patients whose condition has deteriorated before presenting to our Emergency Department and where the clinicians feel it is important to have a timely discussion."

Dr Sharp also stressed that the discussions are being conducted with all age-groups who may require intensive care treatment during the pandemic.

He added: "Resuscitation is often thought of as a simple process to restart the heart.

"However it is a much more complex procedure than that.

"A person’s heart only stops working for serious reasons and if the patient has multiple underlying health conditions their chances of survival are significantly reduced. It is important to discuss this as well as the likelihood of simply restarting their heart.

"It is very important that all the issues are discussed with patients when they are viable options - the discussion also needs to take into account the very serious demands an intensive care unit stay has on an individual’s subsequent physical, physiological and mental wellbeing.

"Treatment in an intensive care unit can leave people with post-traumatic stress, confusion and physical impairments and should not be considered lightly."

Anyone with concerns over their stay at the BGH can contact the Patient Experience Team on 01896 826719 or patient.experience@borders.scot.nhs.uk