More patients in south surviving severe injuries thanks to region's trauma network

Emergency Department entranceMore patients in the south are surviving severe injuries thanks to the development of a specialist trauma centre at Southampton General Hospital.

It is part of the national major trauma system, which went live across the country in April 2012 and consists of 25 regional networks made up of one designated centre supported by surrounding hospitals, known as trauma units.

An independent audit, produced by the Trauma Audit and Research Network (TARN), has found around 600 more lives have been saved in England since the launch – 24 in the south central region alone – which means critically injured patients now have a 30% better chance of survival.

And, for every additional survivor, three further NHS patients will make an enhanced recovery, allowing them to return home to their families and friends.

More than half of all major trauma – the term used to describe life-threatening injuries commonly sustained through road traffic accidents, falls, violence or sporting injuries – happens on the road and it is twice as common in urban areas than rural parts of the country. 

There are around 16,000 instances in England every year, with 37,000 people seriously injured as a result. It is the most common cause of death in children and adults under the age of 40 and is also the fifth most common cause of death in the elderly.

Southampton General Hospital is one of only 12 centres across the country to offer the full range of specialist surgical, intensive care and supporting services for both adults and children who suffer major trauma. 

Last year, Southampton saw 382 patients with immediately life-threatening injuries compared to 288 in 2011-12 and 359 patients with potentially life-changing injuries compared to 214 in 2011-12.

Patients across the region with potential major injuries now bypass their local hospitals to go directly to Southampton if their injury occurs within a 45-minute drive, while those injured further afield are taken to their nearest trauma unit and assessed and resuscitated before being rapidly transferred if they require specialist intervention. 

The city's trauma centre is supported by seven trauma units – based at Portsmouth, Basingstoke, Poole, Dorset, Salisbury, Chichester and on the Isle of Wight – as well as two ambulance services and the Hampshire and Isle of Wight Air Ambulance. These combine to make the Wessex Trauma Network.

Dr Andy Eynon, director of major trauma, said: “At the launch of this system nationwide in 2012, I said it would be the most exciting development in the NHS for a generation and these results demonstrate just what a milestone it is – all in the space of just two years.

“The country has pulled together to initiate a co-ordinated system for patients with major trauma and, as has been seen in countries like the USA and Australia where such developments were in place long before ours, the results are quite remarkable – though there is still more to do, especially the provision of timely and appropriate 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.”

Posted on Friday 4 July 2014