Blood clot prevention measures will prevent 25,000 UK hospital deaths a year

17 December 2009

The UK Department of Health (DH) has made venous thromboembolism (VTE) prevention mandatory for NHS trusts in the Operating Framework for the NHS in 2010/11.

The decision was welcomed by the The All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group (APPTG) which has been campaigning for its inclusion as a key step in reducing up to 25,000 annual avoidable deaths and saving the NHS over £500m pounds a year.

The APPTG has been working alongside the Department of Health to prioritise VTE prevention in recent years. It has frequently demonstrated that mandating best practice is the most effective way to increase the quality of patient care and achieve significant cost savings for the NHS.

Venous Thromboembolism (VTE), includes the conditions deep vein thrombosis — when a blood clot forms in a vein, usually in the leg — and pulmonary embolism, which occurs when a blood clot that has formed in a vein breaks off and lodges in the lung.

Deep vein thrombosis is more common in those who are ill and those who are immobile. Patients in hospital are more vulnerable because they meet both these criteria. Deep vein thrombosis may lead to pulmonary embolism, which can be fatal.

The announcement follows the publication last week of the APPTG annual survey of all acute hospital trusts in England. It found that only 41% of trusts are able to demonstrate that all hospital inpatients are being risk assessed and are receiving appropriate preventative treatment as recommended by the Chief Medical Officer and NICE.

Crucially, the move to mandate VTE prevention was supported by over three quarters of trusts — 77% thought this would be the most effective way to drive compliance with VTE prevention policies at the ward level. Today’s decision will apply to all strategic health authorities who will be able to recoup money paid to hospitals for procedures, where it transpires patients have not been risk assessed for VTE.

Professor Beverley Hunt, Medical Director, Lifeblood: The Thrombosis Charity said: “Our campaign for reducing deaths from hospital-acquired VTE has always recognised that mandating VTE prevention is critical to ensuring all patients are risk-assessed and given appropriate prophylaxis. We are pleased VTE has finally been given the priority it deserves, and we can now begin to make a real impact in reducing estimated 25,000 unnecessary deaths that occur from the condition each year.”

Dr Richard Taylor MP, Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group, said: “We are delighted the Government has responded to the growing momentum of the medical profession in its support for mandating VTE prevention. The challenge will now be to ensure that mandatory policies are audited by a meaningful indicator, so that compliance with risk-assessment and thromboprophylaxis policies are measured on a national scale.”

Further information

1. The APPTG survey is available at

2. NICE Clinical Guideline 46 on the prevention of VTE in surgical patients is available from

3. The UK Department of Health Risk Assessment for Venous Thromboembolism (VTE) is available at


To top