UK & World News
Thousands Of Hospital Kidney Deaths 'Avoidable'
At least 1,000 hospital patient deaths in England each month from a "silent killer" kidney condition are "avoidable", it is claimed.
Acute Kidney Injury (AKI) can go unnoticed by medical staff but "good basic care" would save those lives, according to a study commissioned by the NHS.
Researchers found AKI leads to more than 30 excess deaths a day, or between 15,000 and 40,000 a year, and is five times more prevalent in English hospitals than previously thought.
Medical staff need to make sure patients are hydrated and those having surgery should not go without water for longer than two hours, say experts.
Severe dehydration is one of the main causes of the condition, which involves a loss of kidney function and can cause the heart, lungs and brain to stop working properly.
It can lead to rapid deterioration. Many patients die and those who do recover are at increased risk of long-term kidney disease.
AKI can affect people with no history of kidney disease and can occur in people who are already ill with conditions such as heart failure or diabetes, and those admitted to hospital with infections.
AKI can also develop after major surgery, such as some kinds of heart surgery, because the kidneys can be deprived of normal blood flow during the procedure.
It costs the health service over £1bn every year and is responsible for nearly eight times as many deaths as superbug MRSA at its peak, the study found.
Report co-author Professor Donal O'Donoghue, consultant renal physician at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: "These deaths are avoidable.
"This is completely unacceptable and we can't allow it to continue. Good basic care would save these lives and save millions of pounds for the NHS.
"Doctors and nurses need to make elementary checks to prevent AKI. In general, people who are having surgery shouldn't be asked to go without water for longer than two hours.
"Sometimes that is unavoidable but then medical staff need to check their patients are not becoming dehydrated."
Two years ago, Maura Murray's kidneys all but failed. She fell ill at home having had surgery on a broken leg. The sickness led to severe dehydration and renal failure, or†AKI.
Ms Murray says six GPs failed to see the signs and in the end it was her husband who called an ambulance.
She told Sky News: "Why didn't somebody listen to me in the first place? Why did I suffer from dehydration? I'm sure some of the doctors should have known what was wrong."
More mistakes were then made in hospital. A lack of trained staff meant a routine replacement of her drip was delayed by two days.
Ms Murray added: "So I was left without fluids or antibiotics until the Monday morning until another nurse could put a cannula in my arm. So even though they knew I was dehydrated I was very ill and I was without fluids."
A spokesman for NHS England said: "We have taken steps to ensure the NHS puts in place coherent long-term plans to reduce avoidable deaths in our hospitals, and to improve the way data is used in decision making.
"Health research based on real life evidence like this is vitally important for NHS commissioners in choosing where to target their resources, and we thank Insight Health Economics and NHS Improving Quality for carrying it out."