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23.04.14

Thousands of patients dying from ‘avoidable’ kidney problems

About 1,000 hospital patients in England die every month because of avoidable kidney problems, according to a new NHS Quality Improvement commissioned study. 

Published in the journal Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation, researchers found that acute kidney injury (AKI) could be associated with between 15,000 and 40,000 excess deaths each year. 

AKI refers to a loss of kidney function which can develop very quickly. It can occur in people who are already ill with conditions such as heart failure or diabetes, and those admitted to hospital with infections. 

The study also found that AKI was recorded in 2.43% of hospital admissions during 2010-11, while laboratory data collected by one trust in Kent suggested the true prevalence may be five times as high, at 14.15%. 

Following the findings, researchers have called for closer monitoring of patients in hospital for dehydration and the need to change medications. 

It has been estimated that preventing even a fifth of these AKI cases could save the NHS about £200m a year – or 0.2% of the NHS budget in England. 

Professor Donal O’Donoghue, co-author of the report from Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, said: “We know that at least a thousand people a month are dying in hospital from AKI due to poor care. 

“These deaths are avoidable. This is completely unacceptable and we can’t allow it to continue. Good basic care would save these lives and save millions of pounds for the NHS.” 

He added that doctors and nurses need to make elementary checks to prevent AKI. 

Marion Kerr, health economist at Insight Health Economics, said: “AKI costs the NHS more than £1bn every year. That’s more than we spend on breast, lung and bowel cancer combined.” 

A spokesman for NHS England note: “We have taken steps to ensure the NHS puts in place coherent long-term plans to reduce avoidable deaths in our hospitals, and to improve the way data is used in decision making.” 

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