Alert over 'needless' kidney deaths
Thousands of hospital patients are dying needlessly every year from kidney problems that could be treated, according to new NHS guidance.
Between 12,000 and 42,000 deaths could be prevented every year if patients received the best possible care.
Around 100,000 cases of acute kidney injury (AKI) - previously called acute renal failure - could also be stopped across England with simple checks such as ensuring patients are hydrated and their medicines are reviewed.
A new guideline from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) says AKI costs the NHS between £434 million and £620 million a year - more than it spends on breast, lung and skin cancer combined.
AKI refers to a loss of kidney function and can develop very quickly. It can occur in people who are already ill with conditions such as heart failure or diabetes, and those admitted to hospital with infections.
AKI can also develop after major surgery, such as some kinds of heart surgery, because the kidneys can be deprived of normal blood flow during the procedure. If the condition is not picked up quickly it can lead to the kidneys shutting down, which can cause severe illness and death.
Between 262,000 and one million people admitted to hospital as an emergency will have AKI, of which just under a quarter will die. Of these, between 12,000 and 42,000 deaths could be prevented if patients received good treatment, according to Nice.
A 2009 report from the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD) found only half of all patients with AKI had received good care, dropping to a third of those who developed it while in hospital. A third of patients suffered due to inadequate investigations, including health staff not carrying out "simple" and "basic" checks.
The guideline aims to ensure staff working in all parts of the NHS consider a diagnosis of AKI, not just those working in renal units.
Professor Mark Baker, director of the centre for clinical practice at Nice, said: "Acute kidney injury is a huge problem for the NHS. This new Nice guideline aims to raise awareness among healthcare professionals to recognise and treat the condition early and focuses on prevention, recognition, treatment and timely access to specialist services for all."