The authors say the findings of the first national survey of sickle cell disease and thalassaemia deaths should be a ‘wake-up call’ to nurses and doctors.
Case notes from 55 patient deaths were examined. In nine patients, the authors decided excessive doses of opioids had been given. Of these, five patients had complications due to opioid overdose.
Those needing care for acute episodes often did not get the support they required from healthcare workers with sufficient knowledge and experience, the NCEPOD authors found.
It called for better monitoring of patients on strong pain killers such as opiods to prevent overdose and respiratory failure.
Dr David Mason, NCEPOD Clinical Co-ordinator and one of the study authors added: ‘We need a multidisciplinary approach to acute pain management and regular reviews of therapy to control pain adequately. Doctors and nurses need to be more familiar with what needs to be done if patients’ vitals signs become abnormal.’
Few sickle cell disease patients were getting vaccinated against pneumococcal infection by their GP, the report also showed. Without this protection, these individuals face a 250-fold increased risk of infection, other research has found.