AT A GLANCE: Group makes thrombosis into a political issue

What is going on? The All-Party Parliamentary Thrombosis Group (APPTG) published a report this month claiming that blood clots are killing hospital patients unnecessarily. This is despite the fact that chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson issued guidelines on reducing the incidence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) earlier this year. DVT, where a clot blocks a blood vessel or artery, accounts for ten per cent of annual hospital deaths.

Which comms firms are involved here? Insight Public Affairs acts as the secretariat of the APPTG, with MD John Lehal and associate director James Tyrrell running the account. Huntsworth Health helped with media relations around the launch of the report. Tied in with all this is the fact that Insight is also the retained agency for thrombosis charity Lifeblood, which is celebrating its fifth anniversary this year.

But surely DVT isn’t in the same league as MRSA? It isn’t – but perhaps not in the way that you would think: DVT kills far more people, the APPTG claims. Unnecessary deaths in the past seven months may amount to nearly three times those from hospital-acquired infections such as MRSA and C Difficile. Although the NHS has pledged £270m to prevent deaths from hospital superbugs by 2011, it spends just £27.4m a year on DVT prevention.

What are the other key messages? That 10,700 hospital patients may have died as a result of NHS trusts’ failure to implement key recommendations on DVT. Just over half of hospitalised patients are at risk of developing DVT – but fewer than half will be made aware of the risks and only a third will be risk-assessed. A supportive Labour MP, John Smith, spoke on the issue in a parliamentary debate last week.

What happens next? The comms team wants continuing media coverage of the issue. Various papers, including The Daily Telegraph, picked up on the report, with The Sun carrying a picture story in its health section. Lehal sees Jane Symons, health editor at The Sun, as a key target for future content ideas. Also on Insight’s wish list are: mandatory DVT risk assessments of hospital patients and the inclusion of DVT criteria on the Healthcare Commission’s 2008 audit of hospitals.

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