Our major strides in preventing venous thromboembolism

Helen Morrison, National Venous Thromboembolism Prevention Programme Manager, reflects on the achievements of the VTE programme, ahead of talking in the House of Commons at the All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group annual conference.

Today I am speaking at the All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group annual conference to provide an update on NHS England’s National Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) Prevention Programme, so I would like to use this blog as an opportunity to share our achievements more widely.

VTE is a potentially fatal condition that can occur during or after a hospital stay when a patient is, or has been, largely inactive causing a blood clot to form in a vein. Most hospital related cases are easily preventable by ensuring patients are given a risk assessment following admission, and if simple interventions are followed and acted upon.

In general, people are well aware of the risk of a form of VTE called deep vein thrombosis (DVT) which is regularly associated with air travel, however, the risk of contracting VTE during or following a hospital stay is far greater.

Each year, around one in a 1,000 people are affected by VTE – and it can lead to long-term medical conditions such as permanent swelling in the legs, varicose veins or leg ulcers. It can even be fatal if all or a part of the blood clot breaks off and lodges in the lung.

As a direct result of the National VTE Prevention Programme, some real changes have taken place in the way hospitals work to prevent the condition. The process of risk assessment is vital to ensure that patients with an increased risk of VTE following admission are identified and treated appropriately. It is in this area that we have achieved our most outstanding results – with a rapid increase in the numbers of patients receiving a VTE assessment from just 45 per cent in June 2010, to 95.7 per cent in the most recent data published earlier this month.

This degree of large scale change in the NHS in such a relatively short space of time is quite unprecedented.

Work published recently by the Quality & Outcomes Research Unit at the University Hospitals of Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust demonstrates the impact of the national VTE prevention programme in that reaching a sustained level of risk assessment saves lives.

Everyone, from hospital staff to GPs, and patients to their carers and family, have a role to play in preventing VTE. For those found to be at risk, simple preventative measures can be taken including:

  • Wearing anti-embolism stockings
  • Inflatable sleeves to wear around the legs and feet
  • Blood thinners to reduce the chance of a blood clot
  • Moving and walking where possible when in hospital
  • Drinking plenty of fluid to keep hydrated

The NHS is regarded as global leaders in the field of VTE prevention and the success of our National VTE Prevention Programme is testament to a unique coalition between dedicated healthcare professionals, patients, parliamentarians and the pharmaceutical industry.

You can find out more about our work by visiting the National VTE Prevention Programme website

Helen Morrison took on the role of National VTE Prevention Programme Manager in January 2012 having previously been involved in the implementation of the South West Strategic Health Authority VTE prevention initiative as project manager.

Helen graduated from the University of Wales College Cardiff with a degree in Biochemistry and worked in industry for ten years before moving into healthcare consultancy. She has worked at director level supporting the delivery of a number of programmes for NHS South of England and has now moved to NHS England, who host the National VTE Prevention Programme under the leadership of Dr Mike Durkin, Director of Patient Safety.