UK hospital has 40 per cent death rate after abdominal ops

New research unearths shocking statistic while expert fears figures could be even worse elsewhere

More than four in 10 patients undergoing abdominal surgery at one hospital in the UK die within 30 days, according to figures described as "shocking" yesterday.

The death rate for the emergency surgery is 12 times higher than at the best performing hospital, where just one in 28 patients dies. But patients have no means of knowing which is the safer hospital, as the research does not name the trusts involved.

The findings, from the UK's first national audit of abdominal surgery, come as a separate study suggests death rates following all types of surgery are much higher than previously thought. The overall death rate after surgery in the UK is 3.6 per cent, more than double previous estimates, according to Queen Mary, University of London research in The Lancet.

Around 35,000 emergency abdominal operations are performed each year making it a common surgical procedure. Most patients are over 65 and often seriously ill with internal bleeding or a tear in the bowel wall.

Professor Mike Grocott, consultant anaesthetist at Southampton University, who is co-leading the audit, said: "These data are shocking and may reflect the wide variation in provision of care across UK hospitals, both in terms of availability of essential services and of consultant anaesthetists and surgeons who should be present to conduct these operations."

Evidence shows that death rates are lower when operations are performed by consultants and where patients have ready access to treatment in intensive care following surgery.

Professor Grocott said doctors at the hospital with the highest death rate would be aware of their poor performance and should be examining the reasons for it. But of even greater concern are hospitals that had not participated. The audit, to be presented to the annual congress of the Association of Anaesthetists today, was conducted among 1,800 patients at 35 hospitals who volunteered to submit data – leaving around 200 which did not.

"What's happening in the 200 hospitals that were not interested in collecting their data? One could speculate there may be some who are performing even worse," Professor Grocott said.

The 30-day mortality rate following abdominal surgery ranged from 3.6 per cent in the best performing hospital to 41.7 per cent in the worst. The audit was carried out at the request of surgeons and anaesthetists who said there was little data to drive improvement. Professor Grocott said it was possible the worst performing hospital treated older, sicker patients but "the magnitude of the difference is unlikely to be explained by these factors alone".

"It is very hard to understand that difference without reference to the quality of care," he added. A full audit of all hospitals performing the surgery in the UK will begin next year.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform Engineer - VMware / SAN / Tier3 DC

    £45000 - £55000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior VMware Platform En...

    Recruitment Genius: Purchasing Assistant

    £10000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Ledger Assistant

    £17000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A distributor of specialist ele...

    Ashdown Group: Automated Tester / Test Analyst - .Net / SQL - Cheshire

    £32000 per annum + pension, healthcare & 23 days holiday: Ashdown Group: A gro...

    Day In a Page

    War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

    Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

    Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
    Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

    What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

    Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
    The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

    Setting in motion the Internet of Things

    British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
    Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

    Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

    Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
    Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

    Cult competition The Moth goes global

    The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
    Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

    Pakistani women come out fighting

    Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
    Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

    Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

    The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
    LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

    Education: LGBT History Month

    Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
    11 best gel eyeliners

    Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

    Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

    The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

    Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

    After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot