Warning Over Breathing Machines

Hospitals On High Alert



Hospitals across the country are on high alert after a health watchdog claimed an unidentified number of patients had been hurt by artificial breathing machines.

The Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said it "continues" to receive reports of problems with the systems, used to keep patients alive during major surgery, although these happen on average "less than five times a year".

It is thought the incidents are caused by a combination of faulty equipment and incorrect use.

Of the accidents reported, one saw an anaesthetic breathing system wrongly connected to the gas outlet of a separate machine.

The patient in question suffered a collapsed lung, with his life being saved by quick-thinking surgeons who discovered the problem.

Around 3.5 million operations a year are carried out under anaesthetic, with anaesthetists taking over the management of breathing after a patient is knocked out.

Andrew Hartle, chairman of the Association of Anaesthetists' safety committee, said the death rate from anaesthetics was less than one in 100,000.

"Problems are rare but can still happen," he told The Independent.

"We are aware of some instances involving life-threatening emergencies where if the advice had been followed earlier, they might have been averted."

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Sarah Coles, a medical negligence lawyer from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: "We are seeing a rise in enquiries from patients relating to such incidents which can cause long term and very serious injuries. Unfortunately, faulty equipment is, and always has been a problem, but that it has reached numbers so high it has been brought to the attention of the Trust is a great concern.

"In our experience, equipment can be faulty and fail but the bigger concern is where the hospital Trusts are failing to comply with the protocols and guidance provided by the manufacturers in use and servicing, which makes a number of these incidents clearly preventable."