NHS saves lives of hundreds more trauma victims just two years after changes to care – Independent audit

NHS England Chief Executive Simon Stevens will today (July 1) applaud “a major NHS success story” as new figures show about 600 more patients are surviving major trauma since changes to services in April 2012.

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.

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 per cent 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.

Simon Stevens will today highlight the new system in a speech to Age UK in London.

He says: “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”.

“This reminds us that healthcare is constantly changing and the NHS needs to adapt with it. Sometimes we need to centralise in order to save lives, at other times we need to make services more local to meet the needs of patients.”

Regional Trauma Networks were developed by doctors, nurses and allied health professionals including paramedics and physiotherapists. They aim to ensure patients get the best possible care from the scene of an accident to their rehabilitation at home.

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. The system makes the difference between life and death.

As well as saving lives, Regional Trauma Networks have reduced 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 per cent 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: “People are rightly quick to point out where the NHS falls down, but this report shows our NHS at its best.

“By any international standard, these figures speak for themselves – we are saving more lives than ever before. In my daily practice as a surgeon, I am seeing patients survive injuries that would have been fatal just a few years ago.

“The figures also 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.

“One thing that has surprised us is that major trauma doesn’t just affect young men on motorbikes. The NHS is now successfully treating large numbers of patients who have retired but remain fit and active and suffer injuries similar to young people.”