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Inadequate care for high risk surgical patients

A National Enquiry has found that only half (48%) of high risk surgical patients received good care in UK hospitals; this is a group of patients who are already known to be at an increased risk of death and post-operative complications.

'Knowing the Risk', the latest National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) report, shows that 79% of the patients who died came from the high risk group.

Data collected at the time of surgery found that 21% of patients undergoing elective surgery had not been seen in an assessment clinic before their operation and in only 8% of patients defined as ‘high risk’ was risk of death stated on the patient’s consent form.

Following surgery only 22% of the high risk group were cared for in a critical care unit, with the remaining 78% of patients returning to the ward.

NCEPOD Chairman, Mr Bertie Leigh, said that this report provided a disturbing explanation for the apparently poor results achieved by the NHS:

“People die because we do not give them the level of care they are entitled to expect,” he said.

“Today’s patients are more challenging than those the NHS dealt with even ten years ago. The difficulty is that the NHS does not seem to be rising to the challenge. Our report suggests that the NHS has not caught up, and that the distance between what we are achieving and what we aspire to achieve is showing no signs of getting narrower. Poor care is also leading to longer hospital stays, putting further strain on already stretched hospital budgets.”


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