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Parkinson’s patients ‘twice as likely to die in hospital’


Parkinson’s patients more than twice as likely than other patients to die in hospital following emergency admission, according to the largest ever study of its kind in England.

The study, published in the journal Parkinsonism and Related Disorders, examined admissions by Parkinson’s patients and compared them to those for all other causes over a four-year period.

It found that those with Parkinson’s were more likely to be admitted as an emergency admission than for elective reasons – 72% versus 28%, respectively.

Parkinson’s patients were almost twice as likely to stay in hospital for more than three months and the average length of stay for emergency admissions was seven days longer than admissions from all other causes.

In addition, those with Parkinson’s were almost 2.5 times more likely to die in hospital, with the risk increasing with age.

“A greater understanding is required about the whole process of hospitalisation in Parkinson’s patients”

Carl Clarke

The main reasons for emergency admissions were pneumonia, physical deterioration, urinary tract infection and hip fractures. Parkinson’s patients were up to twice as likely to be admitted for these conditions, compared to the average patient.

The lead author Professor Carl Clarke, from the University of Birmingham, and Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust, said: “A greater understanding is required about the whole process of hospitalisation in Parkinson’s patients including why they are admitted, what happens during admission, and what happens on discharge. 

“Only then can we develop improved processes to prevent and better manage hospitalisation,” he said.

“Urgent attention should be given to developing cost-effective interventions to reduce the burden of hospitalisation for patients, carers and healthcare systems,” he added.

The study included all admissions – emergency and non-emergency – of people aged 35 years of age who were admitted to hospital between 2009 and 2013. 

Steve Ford, chief executive of the charity Parkinson’s UK, said: “Poor, underdeveloped Parkinson’s services mean people with the condition are being admitted as an emergency into hospital at alarmingly high rates, staying longer than they should – and all too often leaving in far worse health than they went in, or never going home at all.

“We urgently need to see better, more joined-up services and greater education about the condition,” he said.

He highlighted the charity’s new UK Parkinson’s Excellence Network intended to bring together healthcare professionals to improve care for people affected by the condition.


Readers' comments (2)

  • Maybe all medical staff should know the basics of Parkinson's care. This would be a start.
    The amount of staff qualified and unqualified I have seen try to forcefully move someone quickly when they haven't been given time to hear what is being asked of them let alone allowing for the delayed transmittion of information that occurs in Parkinson's disease.
    Also the distress caused by late medication because the patient knows that they are going to suffer with severe symptoms due to this.
    Please when someone is diagnosed with Parkinson's please make sure that the carers at least know the basics.
    All hospital/care staff who have to deal with this disease should know the basics, not to is neglect, just as it would be to delay someones insulin or not given a child with a learning disability the time they require to communicate.

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  • Alarming figures, but not surprising. There is often a lack of understanding about the condition and sometimes a reluctance for the nursing and medical staff to take seriously what the patient or carer is telling them about their condition and care needs.
    Often the person with Parkinson's will go without their Parkinson's medication for hours (sometimes even days) or the medication is not given at the right time for the patient. Each patient has their own medication regime, which might involve taking meds every 2 hrs. For many people with Parkinson's it is crucial they take their meds at a specific time, otherwise they cannot function as well physically or may even be completely akinetic. They can also experience psychological effects of not taking their meds on time e.g anxiety, panic attacks, low mood. This often happens in A/E as the patient can wait for ages to have their medication pescribed by the Doctor, or for the relevant drugs to be obtained from pharmacy. If the patient has been placed NBM (due to possible swallowing problems) they are often not given any medication and no-one appreciates the consequences. The result of suddenly stopping Parkinson's meds could potentially be fatal.The moment a patient with Parkinson's comes into A/E consideration needs to be given to their medication regime and how their medication can be given if they are not able to take it orally. Many hospitals have NBM Guidelines for Parkinson's patients.
    I think another issue is loss of mobility and independance when in hospital. If a patient with Parkinson's is confined to bed or chair - they often lose what mobility they had previously and may never regain it - or it takes weeks of rehabilitation to get them back to where they were pre-admission. Mobility must be maintained by allowing the patient to walk whenever possible even if it takes staff more time. Early physiotherapy input is essential.
    I could go on about issues such as constipation, dehydration - all of which can have a detrimental affect on any patient but particularly Parkinson's patients.
    All of this leads to prolonged stays in hospital - which would probably be unnecessary had they received the correct care and management from the point of admission.
    Parkinson's Uk has lots of information on their website for professionals including information about caring for a patient in hospital and the importance of giving the medication on time. But above all, PLEASE listen to what the patient or carer is telling you - they are the experts on their own condition and what their specific needs are.

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