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Concerns Over Hospital Cardiac Arrests

A recent investigation by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) has raised concerns over the number of people suffering preventable cardiac arrests in hospital.

Hospitals are failing to prevent cardiac arrests

The investigation, which was held over a two-week period in 2010, looked at the care of 526 patients in NHS hospitals who had suffered a cardiac arrest. The subsequent report – 'Cardiac Arrest Procedures: Time to Intervene?' – found that more than one third of cardiac arrests could have been prevented. It also highlighted that rates of survival and recovery following a cardiac arrest in hospital are as low as 20%.

Evidently this is extremely shocking, as many would assume that the one place where a cardiac arrest could be prevented (or at least properly dealt with) is hospital. However, it seems that hospital staff are not only failing to assess patients, but are also failing to respond adequately to a patient's deterioration.

Cardiac arrests are predictable

The report said that many in-hospital cardiac arrests are predictable, as they often follow a period of slow and progressive physical deterioration. But medical professionals are apparently failing to recognise this fact, neglecting to appreciate that cardiac arrests are not confined to those with heart disease.

NCEPOD's medical advisors acknowledged that there will be warning signs that a person's health is diminishing in around 75% of deaths from cardiac arrests. However, the investigation found that:-

  • These warning signs were not picked up in 35% of patients;
  • Warning signs were not acted upon adequately by medical professionals in 56% of cases;
  • Problems were not communicated to senior doctors in 55% of cases.

The findings of the report are of course very troubling and come despite the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines from 2007 that set out the recognition and management of acutely unwell patients in hospital. Nevertheless, hospitals are not planning each patient's care, and are not increasing their care when there are signs of deterioration.

Dr George Findlay, author of the report and NCEPOD's lead clinical co-ordinator, said: “The recognition of acute illness, response to it and escalation of concerns to consultants when patients are deteriorating is not happening consistently across hospitals. Senior doctors must e involved in the care-planning process for acutely ill patients at an earlier stage and support junior doctors to recognise the warning signs when a patient is deteriorating."

Have you suffered an in-hospital cardiac arrest?

The poor levels of hospital care highlighted in the report are, of course, not acceptable. Failing to prevent and properly manage a cardiac arrest will represent a substandard level of medical care, and could therefore provide grounds for a medical negligence claim. So if you or your loved one has been affected by an in-hospital cardiac arrest, and you believe doctors are to blame for your injuries, contact a solicitor without delay.

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