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Better sickle cell treatment urged

21st May 2008

A report has warned that patients who suffer from sickle cell anaemia are being treated by health professionals who do not have enough knowledge about the disease.


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A nationwide survey - the first of its kind in the UK - discovered that people with serious conditions were not given treatment and help by "sufficiently experienced" staff.

Sickle cell anaemia stops red blood cells from carrying oxygen effectively to different parts of the body. It can be extremely painful and cause organs to become damaged.

About 12,000 people in the UK suffer from sickle cell disease.

The National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death examined the cases of 55 patients who dies. All had either sickle disease or thalassaemia (an associated condition).

The report, called "A Sickle Crisis", revealed that in the 19 patients who were in pain and died later in hospital, nine were administered "excessive doses" of pain-relieving medication.

Five of the patients' deaths were caused "because of complications due to overdose".

Professor Sebastian Lucas, one of the study authors, said: "We were surprised that our review found such a high number of cases where we did not know the actual cause of death."

"This is a wake-up call to the clinical community."

Professor Lucas said a national database should be put in place by the Department of Health in order to carry out an audit of available treatments and patient experience.




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