~12,000 Preventable Deaths in English Hospitals Annually

Main causes are poor clinical monitoring, diagnostic errors, and inadequate drug/fluid management

THURSDAY, July 19 (HealthDay News) -- Approximately 12,000 hospital deaths in England each year are preventable, according to research published online July 7 in BMJ Quality & Safety.

Helen Hogan, M.D., of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, and colleagues conducted a retrospective, case review study involving 1,000 adults who died in 10 acute hospitals in England in 2009. The authors sought to determine whether or not these deaths were preventable.

The researchers found that, overall, 5.2 percent of the deaths were rated as likely being preventable. Extrapolating from this percentage yielded an estimate of 11,859 preventable deaths in hospitals in England during 2009. Sixty percent of these deaths occurred in elderly, frail patients with multiple comorbidities who were thought to have one year or less to live. The primary causes of preventable death identified included poor clinical monitoring (31.3 percent), diagnostic errors (29.7 percent), and inadequate drug or fluid management (21.1 percent).

"The incidence of preventable hospital deaths is much lower than previous estimates. The burden of harm from preventable problems in care is still substantial," the authors write. "A focus on deaths may not be the most efficient approach to identify opportunities for improvement given the low proportion of deaths due to problems with health care."

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