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Tuesday 20th August 2019

Emergency surgery patients put at risk

29th September 2011

Leading surgeons have issued a strong warning about how poor care and delays in treatment is risking the lives of thousands of non-cardiac NHS emergency surgery patients.


The Royal College of Surgeons (RCS) says poor access to facilities like operating theatres and scans is having an impact on patients with abdominal emergencies and it also fears too few patients receive critical care after surgery.

A report from the RCS shows that of the 170,000 non-cardiac emergency operations conducted every year, some 100,000 patients will develop complications of which a quarter will die.

Among the elderly, the death rate from that 100,000 can be as high as 40%.

The category included most major gastro-intestinal and vascular procedures with emergency major gastrointestinal (abdominal) surgery having one of the highest mortalities, which can reach 50% in the over 80s, according to the college.

There are also differences in survival rates from one hospital to another.

Report author Iain Anderson, who is a consultant general surgeon at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said trusts needed to acknowledge that problems exist.

He said every emergency patient admitted to an NHS hospital should have an individual risk assessment, diagnosis, treatment plan and post-operative care plan prioritised according to need.

“Instead we have some of the NHS’s sickest patients languishing on inappropriate wards, treated by juniors and with no plan in place to deal promptly with unexpected complications,” he said.

The NHS Confederation said to make a real change to emergency services, managers, surgeons and ambulances services must work better together.


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