Why one fifth of patients may be in danger of receiving the wrong level of fluid when being treated in hospital and what can be done to reduce this number.
When someone is admitted to hospital, no matter what the reason, the last thing they expect is to be given an incorrect level of fluid via an intravenous drip. The National Institute for Health & Care Excellence (NICE) has however reported that 1 in 5 patients receive the wrong level of intravenous fluid whilst in hospital.
This is particularly worrying as the result of being given the wrong level of fluids is that the patient could be in danger of developing heart, kidney or liver problems.
As clinical negligence solicitors we advise patients about hospital negligence claims when they have suffered injury due to negligent medical treatment, including for example if they have received either too much or too little fluid for their needs.
It is important to understand the reasons why this occurs and what is being done to combat the problem.
Whilst in hospital, a patient may be prescribed a volume of fluid to be given intravenously over a set period taking into account the patient’s fluid balance requirements.
Once this prescription has been drawn up, nursing staff will be responsible for the delivering and monitoring the infusion in accordance with that prescription. This leads to two potentials for error:
1. The prescription and assessment of the patient’s fluid needs may be incorrect
2. The delivery and regulation of the drip may be below standard.
NICE has reported however that many NHS staff are being insufficiently trained in IV fluid management and that experts are disagreeing over which IV fluids are best leading to a wide variation in practice. This, along with hospital staff being overworked and unable to spend sufficient time with each patient has compounded the problem.
In order to try and combat the problem, NICE have developed new guidelines for England and Wales.
Under the terms of the guidelines, all hospitals will be expected to appoint an “Intravenous Fluid Champion” who can help to administer support and training to all staff. Alongside this patients’ drips are to be managed and monitored more closely.
It is hoped that by providing additional training to staff and monitoring drips more closely, the number of patient deaths and complications that occur because of negligent administration of intravenous fluids will be significantly decreased.
As clinical negligence solicitors we are delighted that new guidelines have been introduced to try and combat the problem of dangerous drips. Fluids are an essential need when in hospital and therefore it is vital that this aspect of medical care is taken seriously. The evidence from NICE and our own experience is that patients suffer unnecessary injury due to basic failures in relation to their fluid management and this must be avoided. If you or a family member has suffered an injury as a result of dangerous practices, please contact the Clinical Negligence Team who can investigate further for you and advise you on any potential hospital negligence claim.