Statistics Show Increases in UK Bedsore, Infected Wound, Malnutrition Deaths
January 30, 2012

Statistics Show Increases in UK Bedsore, Infected Wound, Malnutrition Deaths

More than 27,000 people in the UK died in 2010 as a result of bedsores or infected wounds, and 1,000-plus reportedly succumbed as a result of dehydration or malnutrition, according to figures obtained from the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

According to a Sunday article by Telegraph reporters Laura Donnelly and James Clayton, the fatalities resulting from bedsores and/or infected wounds increased by more than 50% over the past decade.

"Bedsores are caused when patients are not turned regularly, or are left in poor hygiene. They may become infected if not spotted and treated quickly," they wrote. "While in most cases the sores and infections were not the cause of death, experts said their presence demonstrated that thousands of patients were receiving poor care during the last days and weeks of their lives."

In total, the ONS statistics showed that 218 hospital and care home patients in England and Wales had bedsores listed as the cause of death on their death certificate, while another 2,121 died as a result of blood poisoning -- "which experts say is caused in the large majority of cases by infected wounds," Donnelly and Clayton wrote.

In addition, 25,343 died from other causes while suffering from one of the two conditions, they added.

A January 22 story by the Daily Mail's Sophie Borland, which also cites ONS statistics, claims that in 2010, 155 patients died from dehydration and another 48 from malnutrition while in the hospital.

In addition, Borland says that 812 patients died with dehydration and 301 with malnutrition, even though the conditions "did not directly cause their death." In all, she says that "dehydration or malnutrition directly caused or was linked to 1,316 deaths" -- an increase of more than 450 fatalities versus 2000.

Those figures are disputed by the ONS. In an open letter written to the Daily Mail, Lucy Vickers, Deputy Director of the organization's Health and Life Events Division, said that "figures based on underlying cause of death should not be added to figures based on when a cause is mentioned anywhere on the death certificate."

"This is because the number of deaths based on underlying cause are already included in the figures based on any mention of a cause. Moreover, individuals who were suffering from both dehydration and malnutrition will be included twice in the figures based on any mention on the death certificate. By adding the four numbers together you are double-counting deaths," she added, noting that by ONS records there were 1,094 deaths where malnutrition, dehydration, or both were mentioned on the death certificate.

These discovery come following a 2011 report, conducted by the Health Service Ombudsman, which "condemned the NHS for its inhumane treatment of the elderly," the Telegraph said, adding that the investigation "found hospitals were failing to meet their most basic needs, with many left hungry, unwashed or given the wrong drugs because of the 'casual indifference of staff'."


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