Would the use of a capnograph reduce medical negligence claims?

Lives are being put needlessly at risk due to a lack of capnographs on intensive care wards according to the Royal College of Anaesthetists.

A capnograph is a cheap, simple breathing monitor that detects changes in CO2 concentrations in patients and its use could reduce over 70% of the deaths on intensive care wards that are caused by breathing related problems.

Most UK operating theatres do use the device but only around 25% of intensive care units use it. This could leave them open to claims for medical negligence compensation at a time when the NHS has been told to drastically reduce its expenditure.

Between 2008 and 2009, 38 deaths occurred due to airway complications and just under 50% (18) of these occurred in intensive care units. Patients with health difficulties such as obesity are most at risk from breathing problems. In fact their risk of airway problems is double that of a non-obese patient.

The Royal Society of Anaesthetists recommends that all patients who have breathing problems whilst in intensive care should be monitored by means of a capnograph. The device is not expensive and nurses and doctors can easily receive training on how to use it.

Montse Gil Rivas, a medical negligence solicitor, said it was a matter for concern that NHS trusts do not use this device. By doing so, they are putting people’s lives at risk.

Patient care should be of paramount importance but these days medical negligence teams are seeing an increase in the number of cases where something has gone wrong.

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