Thousands of hospital kidney patients die needlessly every month, report warns

22 April 2014

Thousands of hospital kidney patients die needlessly every month, report warns

New research commissioned by the NHS has uncovered the shocking discovery that at least 1,000 hospital patients die each month due to inattention and lack of care regarding acute kidney injuries. Not only are acute kidney injury costing lives, with at last 15,000 deaths annually, but costing the NHS more than £1bn every year.

Avoidable kidney problems are not being properly dealt with and poor care is costing lives every month in hospitals, according to a study commissioned by the NHS. The poor care and neglect is jeopardising the lives of patients who are experiencing acute kidney injury (AKI) and is giving rise to a troubling rise in cases of medical negligence and mistreatment as a result.

Excess deaths from medical negligence in acute kidney injury care

In the report researchers found that 15,000-40,000 excess deaths every year are caused by AKI, which results in loss of kidney function and can develop quickly especially in patients who are already ill and in hospital for conditions like infections, heart failure or diabetes. Lack of attention in dealing with AKI promptly is resulting in avoidable deaths at these hospitals and medical negligence is arising due to a lack of care, such as failing to monitor levels of hydration in patients.

AKI can also develop after major surgery, for example heart surgery, due to the fact that the kidneys have restricted normal blood flow during the procedure. As such AKI is entirely avoidable and should be noticed and dealt with promptly and effectively, especially since severe dehydration is one its main causes and is a development that should always be monitored if a patient is in hospital.

“At least a thousand people a month are dying in hospital due to poor care”

The research was carried out by kidney disease experts as well as Insight Health Economics and who found incidences of AKI are five times more likely to arise in English hospitals than previously thought-meaning that preventative care should be at its highest levels within those hospitals-evidence suggests that medical negligence arises because this care is absent or lacking.

The report's co-author Prof Donal O'Donoghue is a consultant renal physician at Salford Royal NHS foundation trust and who 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. Doctors and nurses need to make elementary checks to prevent AKI. In general, people who are having surgery shouldn't be asked to go without water for longer than two hours.

"Sometimes that is unavoidable, but then medical staff need to check their patients are not becoming dehydrated. They also need to be aware that some common medications increase the risk of AKI."

“Every day, more than 30 people are dying needlessly”

The cost of this medical mistreatment is far higher than anyone imagined according to the report, with the annual £1bn cost to the NHS greater than that being spent on breast, lung and bowel cancer combined according to Insight Health Economics.

Marion Kerr, health economist at Insight Health Economics, said:

"Every day, more than 30 people are dying needlessly. Compare that to MRSA which was killing about four people a day at its peak. Simple improvements in basic care could save the NHS £200m a year and, more importantly, save thousands of lives."

A spokesman for NHS England said: "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.

"Health research based on real life evidence like this is vitally important for NHS commissioners in choosing where to target their resources."

Medical Negligence often arises due to avoidable harm and acute kidney injury is an area that has unfortunately attracted medical mistreatment due to the findings of the research mentioned above. If you or a loved one are aware of problems regarding kidney injury care and would like to draw attention to what is happening, you can speak to the specialist teams at who can provide advice, guidance and support about what your options are.