Hospitals accused of putting patients' lives at risk

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A Freedom of Information request by Patient safety charity Action Against Medical Accidents (AvMA) has helped to reveal the truth about what is happening in our hospitals.

Many hospitals are failing to comply with NHS rules concerning drugs, surgery and equipment. These rules are designed to prevent deaths in hospital, but an alarming number of hospitals are not following the safety alerts issued by the National Patient Safety Agency (NPSA).

It has been said that this failure to follow the rules is 'unacceptable' and 'endangers the health of patients'.

Examples include:

  • 104 hospitals and other providers of NHS care have not confirmed that they have ensured that injectable medicines are used more safely. 25 patients died and 28 others suffered serious harm in an 18 month period, prompting the NPSA safety alert.
  • 81 hospitals and other care providers have not followed the safety alert covering painkilling medicines. Shockingly the deadline to take action was January 2009 – by December 2009 these 81 hospitals hadn't complied.
  • 25 NHS organisations have not confirmed that they are practising new procedures to reduce the risk of patients falling out of bed. The new rules were issued after around 90 patients fell out of their hospital bed causing broken bones; 11 of them died.
  • 10 NHS Trusts have not confirmed that they are following the new rules on nasogastric feeding tubes – errors with these are known to have caused 11 deaths before the NPSA alert came out.
  • 50 Trusts have not showed evidence of following hand hygiene advice.
  • 37 Trusts have not taken steps to improve the safety of blood transfusions.
  • 6 Trusts have not implemented an alert to protect patients undergoing brain surgery from having burr holes drilled in the wrong side of their head.

Peter Walsh of AAMA said: "The fact that so many NHS bodies are failing to act on potentially life-saving alerts from the NSPA is shocking. It is putting lives at unnecessary risk and adds insult to injury for patients who have been harmed or lost loved ones as a result of NHS lapses in safety."

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