Hip Surgery Delays Result In Hundreds Of Deaths


The Law Of… Challenging Negligence

Recent research has found that delays to hip operations contributed to hundreds of deaths across the UK.

The study, conducted by Southmead Hospital in Bristol, looked at survival rates following hip operations and found that almost 700 people could have died because their hip surgery was wrongly delayed.

Explaining the details of the study, Lisa Swales – Partner in Simpson Millar's Medical Negligence team – outlines how the family members of those affected by these wrongful delays could seek justice for their loved ones.

Survival Rates & Surgical Intervention

Analysing data from 241,446 patients in England and Wales admitted to hospitals with hip fractures from 2011 to 2014 the study sought to establish mortality rates amongst patients 30 days after their admission to hospital.

It then looked at how long it took patients to receive their operation and found that:

  • Mortality rate was lowest amongst patients that received their hip operation 24 hours
  • The number of patients who died within 30 days of their operation increased by 8% for those who underwent surgery between 24 and 36 hours after admission to hospital
  • For those who waited more than 48 hours to undergo surgery the risk of death increases 20%

Current guidelines from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) suggest that patients with hip problems should be operated on either the same day, or the day after, they are admitted to hospital.

Those involved in this research study claim that this is the first time that it has been made abundantly clear the benefits of early surgery.

Timothy Chesser, who led the research project, claimed that this is especially pertinent in case of frail and elderly patients requiring hip operations, as they have a number of other health complications to consider.

Despite this, it is important to note that in some instances it could be in the patient's interest to delay a hip operation, especially if they need to recover from another illness or ailment before undergoing surgery.

Hip Operation Negligence

This is not the first time that hip operations have received media coverage, as earlier this year the rationing of services in the NHS meant that patients needing a new hip could only receive an operation if they are in so much pain they cannot sleep or carry out daily tasks.

In a bid to save £2million a year, clinical groups drew up the plans to reduce the number of people that qualify for hip and knee replacements – it is against this backdrop that this study has shown the benefits of early surgical intervention.

Further concerns about the care offered to hip patients across the country arose when it was revealed that thousands could have been fitted with unsafe hip implants.

An investigation by the Telegraph found that 20,000 patients were fitted with hip implants manufactured by American firm DePuy, despite the company being warned that they were defective and dangerous by experts years before they were used in tens of thousands of hip operations.

The defect can arise when metal-on-metal implants wear down, causing toxic ions to be deposited into a patient's bloodstream. This can result in serious, agonising pain, and costly follow-up operations to replace the implant with a safer alternative.

Claiming Compensation For Negligence

This study has shown that some deaths after a hip operation could have been avoided if intervention had come earlier, which is concerning while some patients being forced to wait until their pain is effecting daily tasks or causing sleep problems before they can receive a new hip.

These factors could give rise to avoidable deaths being returned by coroners in cases of delayed hip operations, as Lisa explains:

"It's very concerning that this study has been released against a backdrop of reduced hip operations and we are worried that these money saving initiatives could result in increased mortality rates amongst the most frail and vulnerable in our society."

"This study essentially underlines that deaths following a hip operation could have been avoided, especially if the surgery was delayed unnecessarily."

"While it's likely to be the last thing on a family's mind after such a tragic event, if a delayed hip operation causes a fatality you can seek justice by filing a claim against the negligent healthcare provider that caused an avoidable death."

"In these cases there may be a coroner's inquest to establish that a death was avoidable, which we attend for free either in support of a family, or on their behalf if they find the process too difficult."

"Claiming compensation in these instances can ensure that the negligent party owns up to their mistake and can bring a sense of closure by having their admission of liability on record."

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