The results of a recent research study commissioned by the NHS revealed that 1,000 patients die each month from avoidable kidney-related problems that develop due to poor care while in hospital.
The research, which was carried out by kidney disease and other specialists, found that up to 40,000 people die each year from acute kidney injuries which cause a loss of kidney function. This can develop very quickly and become life-threatening within a few hours. While a majority of these patients are already ill with pre-existing kidney conditions and other conditions such as heart failure, a worrying 30% of these deaths can be avoidable if patients receive appropriate care from nurses and doctors. The study also highlighted that a significant proportion of these deaths are caused by severe dehydration, which can be avoided by putting into place simple procedures such as checking on patients to ensure that they have enough to drink.
It is estimated that deaths arising out of acute kidney injuries cost the NHS £1 billion and the report concluded that, if doctors and nurses acted appropriately by carrying out these elementary checks, an estimated £200 million could be saved and invested into other areas of healthcare needing such investment as well as saving thousands of lives.
The study emphasises the need for doctors and nurses to provide good basic care to patients. This includes following guidelines such as the NICE Guidelines that are already in place to manage such issues. Among other guidance on management, the Guidelines state that doctors and nurses should measure serum creatinine levels, a marker of kidney function, in patients with existing conditions such as heart failure, liver disease, diabetes, a history of kidney problems or blood poisoning.
Naomi Holland, an associate in the Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team, said: “It is of great concern to us that simple measures are not being taken to ensure that patients are receiving even the most basic levels of care. We currently have several cases (some being investigated by coroners) where elderly patients who failed to receive basic nursing care such as appropriate observations and monitoring developed infection, dehydration and kidney failure, so we are seeing the findings of this report in practice. Hopefully, now that these issues have been highlighted, more emphasis will be placed on ensuring that patients are receiving the care they deserve.”