Thousands Of NHS Patients Die Of Thirst

Study Finds At Least 1,000 People A Month Are Dying Of Thirst On The NHS

23.04.2014

At least 1,000 people a month are dying of dehydration and poor care, according to a new study published by the NHS.

Some 15,000 to 40,000 patients are thought to die every year of kidney problems in UK hospitals because nurses are not taking basic steps like ensuring patients have enough to drink, while the lack of oversight of doctor's prescriptions is also thought to be a factor.

While at first it may seem easy to ensure patients have enough water, many people with kidney problems require more hydration than other people, while many older people prefer not to make a fuss when they are thirsty for fear of being an inconvenience, reports the Telegraph.

It was also posited that many old and vulnerable patients quickly become weak following dehydration and then cannot muster the strength to ask for a drink, which makes their decline much quicker.

Research shows that thirst may affect as many as one in seven hospital patients, costing the NHS £1 billion per year.

People with heart conditions, diabetes and secondary infections are more at risk of dehydration than others.

Professor Donal O'Donoghue, a consultant renal doctor at Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust, who co-wrote the research paper, said: "We know that at least a thousand people a month are dying in hospital from acute kidney injury due to poor care.

"These deaths are avoidable. This is completely unacceptable and we can't allow it to continue. Good basic care would save these lives and save millions of pounds for the NHS. Doctors and nurses need to make elementary checks to prevent acute kidney injury."

Joyce Robins, from Patient Concern, called the figures "alarming" and added that the charity had heard many cases of older people begging for water and being told to wait.

A spokesperson for NHS England confirmed it will take steps to improve the provision of drinking water throughout its hospitals, adding that it target its resources more effectively in the future.

Expert Opinion
The findings of this study are deeply concerning and highlight the need for urgent improvements to be made to protect patient safety.

“Access to water is a basic human right and for this to be ignored in hospitals that are meant to care for people raises questions about the overall care standards being provided by nurses and hospital staff.

“The Francis Report into standards at Stafford Hospital highlighted shocking details of patients having to drink from vases as they were so thirsty. To learn that, over a year on, avoidable deaths are still occurring across the country for the very same reason is simply not acceptable.”
Mandy Luckman, Partner