Health Committee

8 March 2004
Session 2004-05 The Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Hospitalised Patients: Report published

8 March 2004
Session 2004-05 The Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Hospitalised Patients: Report published


It kills over 25,000 people a year, costs the NHS an estimated £640 million but is largely preventable through cheap and effective drugs.

Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) is a killer that most of us remain unaware of. Yet currently it's responsible for more deaths than breast cancer, AIDS and traffic accidents combined and twenty-five times the number of deaths from MRSA.

A report by the Health Select Committee has uncovered shocking evidence that hospitals are failing to implement sufficient safeguards to prevent patients from developing VTE.

During their inquiry MPs also discovered there are safe, efficacious and cost effective means of preventing the condition, but they're not being widely administered. Currently, there are no NHS guidelines for hospitals to follow.

Committee Chairman, David Hinchliffe said:

"Hospital staff and medics are simply not aware of the extent of VTE. Considering the sheer numbers of people who die from the condition I find it shocking that this has been allowed to go unchecked for so long.

The guidelines which the NHS plan to introduce in May 2007 are too late, too narrow in scope and will not go far enough to prevent more unnecessary deaths. Doctors need a comprehensive set of guidelines that will cover all patients to allow them to tackle the problem head on.

We know that there are drugs available that dramatically cut the chances of patients developing a blood clot. They are cheap, effective, easy to administer and should be used to much greater effect.

We recommend that each hospital creates a Thrombosis team as soon as possible, that will be charged with the responsibility of reducing the risk that patients face of contracting VTE ."

Venous thrombosis is a blood clot which forms in a vein often causing swelling and pain. An embolism is created if part or all of the clot breaks off and travels through the venous system. If the blood clot lodges in the lung, without treatment, 30% of people will die.

A substantial number of patients develop VTE after they have been discharged from hospital. As a result the original physician or surgeon who treated the patient in hospital doesn't know what's happened.

The Department of Health has commissioned the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE) to produce a set of guidelines by May 2007. These are, however, only due to cover a subset of surgical patients, while the majority of sufferers are non-surgical patients.

The Health Committee recommends:

  • That the NICE VTE guidelines be extended to cover the majority of hospital patients.

  • That the guidelines be introduced earlier than May 2007.

  • That on admission to hospital all patients are counselled on the risks of VTE and undergo a risk assessment to determine if drugs should be administered.

  • That to raise awareness amongst medical practitioners of the extent of the problem all physicians and surgeons are informed if their patients contract VTE after they have been discharged from hospital.

  • That the NHS ensures the guidelines are fully implemented. The Department, NICE and the Royal Colleges should work together to raise awareness of the extent of VTE and to audit the use of the guidelines.

  • That thrombosis committees and thrombosis teams be established in each hospital to promote best practice and to be a source of education and training of all staff.

Notes for Editors:

  1. Embargoed hard copies of the report will be available from the House of Commons Press Gallery and the Reception 7 Millbank SW1P 3JA from 1030hrs on Monday 7th March 2005.

  2. Media Bids/Request for interviews with the Chairman should be directed to Luke Robinson on 07834 312 705

  3. For detailed information on the report the Committee can be contacted on 020 7219 2348.

  4. Committee Memberships is as follows: Mr David Hinchiffe MP (Chairman), Mr David Amess MP, John Austin MP, Mr Keith Bradley MP, Simon Burns MP, Mrs Patsy Calton MP, Jim Dowd MP, Mr Jon Owen Jones MP, Siobhain McDonagh MP, Dr Doug Naysmith MP, Dr Richard Taylor MP.

  5. The reports title is 'The Prevention of Venous Thromboembolism in Hospitalised Patients' and will be published as a their second report of Session 2004-05 (HC 99).