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More patients surviving major trauma

New system of care ‘an NHS success story’

Jo Carlowe

Tuesday, 01 July 2014

More patients are surviving major trauma since changes were made to services in April 2012.

An independent audit, commissioned by NHS England and produced by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN), shows that patients in England have a 30% improved chance of surviving severe injuries after the introduction of Regional Trauma Networks across England in April 2012.

This equates to 600 more lives saved than in 2012, the audit suggests – currently each year about 3,000 people reach hospital alive but die of their injuries.

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens will today applaud what he describes as: “a major NHS success story”, when he addresses Age UK in London.

The 16,000 life-threatening major traumas are the biggest cause of death in children and adults under the age of 40 annually.  In all, some 37,000 are seriously injured in England each year.

In highlighting the new system, Simon Stevens will say: “This is a major success story – more people are surviving serious injuries because they are taken straight to specialist trauma teams who identify life-threatening problems quicker and perform life-saving operations earlier”.

“The NHS of the future will be one where more support for frail older patients is provided locally, but where for really major conditions, patients get quick access to centres of excellence. We need both – not either/or”.

Regional Trauma Networks were developed by doctors, nurses and allied health professionals including paramedics and physiotherapists. Those with the most serious injuries can go directly to one of 25 major trauma centres around the country. Previously they were taken to the nearest hospital but few district hospitals have ever had capacity to provide the specialist comprehensive care – 24 hours a day, seven days a week – that these patients need urgently.

Care starts with the paramedic at the scene, moves to the specialist emergency teams at the major trauma centre, and then to the surgeons, doctors, nurses, physiotherapists and other NHS staff  working together across the network of major trauma centres and local hospitals. 

Regional Trauma Networks have also reduced the numbers of people left with permanent disability. For every additional survivor, three further NHS patients will make an enhanced recovery allowing them to return to families and friends.

Previously, these patients often waited seven to ten days in a local hospital before being transferred to a specialist surgical unit for treatment of complex injuries to their spine, pelvis or limbs. Now over 90% of patients are transferred within two days, treated and then go home promptly or move to a hospital close to their home to complete their recovery and rehabilitation.

Professor Chris Moran, National Clinical Director for Trauma for NHS England, said: “The figures…serve as a stark reminder that where change saves life and improves care, we must be flexible and prepared to change the system rapidly to deliver the care that our patients deserve.”

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