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Emergency surgery patients' at risk

View profile for Judith Thomas-Whittingham
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The Royal College of Surgeons have raised concerns that the lives of thousands of NHS emergency surgery patients are being risked by poor care and delays in treatment.

A recent report indicates that approximately 170,000 patients undergo non-cardiac emergency operations each year. Of those, 100,000 are expected to develop complications and 25,000 will die. The mortality rate is even higher among the elderly.

The report highlights that poor access to facilities such as scanners and operating theatres means diagnosis is sometimes delayed and some emergencies are not spotted in time. There is even a suggestion that elective or planned surgery is prioritised over emergency surgery as hospitals are under pressure to bring down waiting lists.

Criticism is raised that not enough patients receive critical care after surgery or, when they do, it is for too short a time. The report also highlights that less experienced junior staff are often left to deal with complex and dangerous cases.

Iain Anderson, the author of the report and a consultant general surgeon at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, warns that Trusts needed to acknowledge that problems exist. He believes there are: “8 or 10 simple steps that could lead to substantial improvement.” For example, Mr Anderson suggests that: "Every single emergency patient who comes through the door of an NHS hospital should have an individual risk assessment, diagnosis, treatment plan and post-operative care plan prioritised according to need.”

This author concurs with the opinion of Mr Bruce Taylor, President of the Intensive Care Society, who comments that: "It is vital that the guidance is initiated as it in the best interest for potentially vulnerable patients who require surgical procedures."

If you believe that the medical treatment you have received is below a reasonable standard, then we have a dedicated team of clinical negligence solicitors who would be happy to advise you further. Call us for free initial advice on 01616 966 229.

By clinical negligence solicitor, Tom Mooney