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12,000 annual acute kidney injury deaths could be prevented

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At least 12,000 people could be dying each year from a “largely preventable” condition because of poor care standards, health experts have warned.

Death rates from acute kidney injury (AKI) are “100 times higher than those caused by MRSA”, the Kidney Alliance said.

The umbrella organisation, which speaks on behalf of campaigners and many leading medics in the field, said that a third of cases of AKI could be avoided through simple basic care.

A spokesman said that new research, due to be published at the end of March, indicates that through the delivery of “optimal” acute kidney injury care, at least 12,000 lives could be saved every year in the UK.

Acute kidney injury, or acute renal failure, is the term used when the kidneys suddenly become unable to do the work expected of them - this means that they are unable to remove salt, water and waste products from the bloodstream. The condition is seen in 13% to 18% of all people admitted to hospital - with older people particularly affected.

In 2009, a National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death report described systemic deficiencies in care of patients who had died of AKI. Only 50% of patients who died from the condition had received “good” care.

The Kidney Alliance added that AKI care is “variable and often poor”. A spokesman said that an estimated fifth of cases are caused by drug errors.

“The general public, patients, and the NHS are rightly on red alert for patient safety issues like MRSA but worryingly, when it comes to AKI, a condition which is over 100 times more deadly, we are not,” said Kidney Alliance director Fiona Loud.

“Through simple basic care in the NHS, up to a third of AKI can be avoided, with the potential to save thousands of lives.”

NICE said that if 20% of cases of acute kidney injury were prevented then thousands of lives would be saved each year.

In new draft guidelines the health watchdog aims to address “unacceptable variations” in the recognition, assessment and treatment of the condition.

Nice said that treating AKI costs more than the combined cost associated with breast, lung and skin cancer.

Professor Mark Baker, director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE, said: “Acute kidney injury is a huge problem for the NHS.

“In the past there have been concerns that not all patients had received good care and there have been unnecessary deaths due to deficiencies in care.

“The draft guideline aims to raise awareness among healthcare professionals to recognise and treat the condition early and focuses on prevention, recognition, therapy and timely access to specialist services for all.”

Sign our Speak Out Safely petition to support a transparent and open NHS. We are calling on the government to implement recommendations from theFrancis report that will increase protection for staff who raise concerns about patient care.

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