Some of the sickest patients that hospitals treat are dying unnecessarily because they receive poor care, blighted by shortages of staff and equipment, a new NHS inquiry has revealed.
A death rate of one in three among inpatients who need emergency help with breathing is already high by international standards, and is getting worse.
The analysis by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death of NHS services for the 50,000 patients a year who receive emergency oxygen treatment uncovered a series of major flaws in the care they received. It described its findings as “shocking”.
“The care of these patients was rated as less than good in four out of five cases. The mortality rate was high: more than one in three patients died,” the inquiry found. “Supervision of care and patient monitoring were commonly inadequate. Case selection for NIV was often inappropriate and treatment was frequently delayed due to a combination of service organisation and a failure to recognise that NIV was needed.” In addition, investigators found from examining case notes that “the quality of medical care provided was often poor. This poor care included both non-ventilator treatment and ventilation management, which were frequently inappropriate”.
Dr Mark Juniper, a co-author of the report and NCEPOD’s lead clinical coordinator for medicine, said the sheer extent of problems he and his colleagues uncovered meant their hard-hitting conclusions were justified.
“This is a major problem which is resulting in unnecessary loss of life. Four out of five patients didn’t receive care that we as doctors would be happy to receive. That’s quite an indictment. That’s shocking because all these patients are at risk of dying.”