Oxford Joins Major Trauma Network

2 April 2012, 05:00

Hospitals in Oxford are joing a national network of trauma centres to make sure people who have been in a serious accident or shot get access to life-saving care.

Global evidence suggests people are more likely to survive and have less disability if they are treated by a fleet of specialists.

However, patients can experience longer journey times to the trauma centres as ambulance teams bypass local A&E departments.

Today, five hospital trusts in the South joined the national network, equipped with specialist equipment and the expertise of orthopaedic, neurosurgery and radiology teams.

They include Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust and University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust.

While the centres already deal with some trauma cases at the moment they will now have to meet agreed standards on the kind of care patients can expect from trauma centres.

Under the new system, patients who suffer major injuries will be taken straight to a trauma centre if it is within a 45-minute ambulance drive.

The centres are supported by smaller trauma units providing care for all except the most severe major trauma patients. 

If it is not possible to get to a major trauma centre within 45 minutes, or where the patient needs to be stabilised quickly, they will be taken to the nearest hospital with a local trauma unit for immediate treatment.

Patients can then be transferred to the major trauma centre.

A National Audit Office (NAO) report in 2010 estimated there are at least 20,000 cases of major trauma each year in England, resulting in 5,400 deaths.

Many other patients suffer permanent disabilities requiring long-term care.

The study said England's system led to a 20% higher in-hospital death rate for trauma patients compared to the US.

Experts said having a dedicated consultant present in an emergency department produces quicker and better decision-making for trauma patients.

In countries with major trauma networks, in-hospital death rates are cut by 15% to 20%.

The NAO suggested an extra 450 to 600 lives could be saved each year across England if such a system was introduced.

Dr James Mapstone, clinical director of acute care for NHS South of England, said:

"Trauma patients will have better access to highly-skilled and experienced trauma clinicians and the most advanced treatments in the world, 24-hours-a-day.

"All the ambulance services in the South have carried out enhanced training of their staff so they can take major trauma patients straight to the nearest major trauma centre once it has been designated as such.

Ellen Booth, senior campaigns officer at Brake, the road safety charity, said:

"Tragically, every day five people are killed and 65 people suffer serious injury on UK roads.

"It's vital that victims who suffer serious injury receive the highest standards of medical care to enable improved recovery times and reduce the likelihood of life-long injuries and sustained suffering.

"By improving recovery, major trauma centres will greatly reduce the suffering of road crash victims.''