Clinical negligence team concerned at scale of inappropriate intravenous care

Posted: 10/12/2013


The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today, 10 December 2013, published guidance for administering intravenous fluids to patients in hospital.  NICE says doctors and nurses need better training in the use of drips and should regard these as akin to administering medication. 

The NICE report comes on the back of alarming figures collated by the National Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths and suggests that as many as one in five patients on an intravenous drip experiences some form of complication as a result of inappropriate administration. 

Complications vary in severity but, in the most serious cases, too much intravenous fluid can result in pneumonia and heart failure, while too little can damage the kidneys.  Other complications have included patients being given the wrong type of fluid.  Any of these can be potentially life-threatening.

In response, NICE has published guidelines outlining the type and volume of fluids that should be administered, which varies from patient to patient.  NICE urges healthcare professionals to apply the same principles to administering fluids as they do to prescribing medication.  NICE also recommends that every hospital should appoint a 'champion' to promote best practice and to provide training and audit the use of intravenous fluids and patient outcomes.

Commenting on the report, Andrew Clayton, associate in Penningtons Manches' clinical negligence team said: "It is staggering that tens of thousands of patients every year are receiving inappropriate care through something as fundamental as the administration of fluids.  We have seen a number of cases involving injuries arising from inappropriate drip management – some of them with very serious consequences.  The steps that NICE is promoting are welcome and necessary.  Both hospitals and healthcare professionals must address this basic aspect of patient safety."


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