A new breathing tube developed by doctors in King’s Lynn is helping to save critically-ill patients’ lives at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital.

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Consultants at the QEH say the device stops patients on ventilators from developing pneumonia and other potentially-fatal infections.

It has led to a reduction in intensive care mortality rates, which equate to around 50 lives a year saved.

Dr Mark Blunt, the QEH’s clinical director, said: “It works out at around a patient a week if we calculate our total number of admissions and the expected mortality rate, the mortality is about 50 patients a year less than what would be expected.”

Dr Blunt said as well as a higher life expectancy in intensive care, the QEH also has the third-lowest mortality rate for major surgery in the country, because many patients were treated in its intensive care unit after their operations.

Developed by intensive care consultant Dr Peter Young, who has spent 10 years investigating the problem, the breathing tube forms a seal which prevents bacteria from the stomach and mouth from travelling into the lungs.

“It’s a fact that’s become apparent over the last 10 years that hospital-aquired pneumonia is the biggest cause of mortality in intensive care units,” he said.

Dr Young’s breathing tube features an inflating collar, which prevents infection and a drain which enables fluids to be siphoned off instead of travelling into the lungs.

Dr Young has also developed a non-injectable connector, which helps prevent drugs being mistakenly injected into a patient’s arteries, with fellow QEH consultant Dr Joe Carter.

The device is now sold world-wide, with a percentage of the profits going to the trust which runs the QEH.

Mortality rates in the intensive care unit at the QEH are between 50 and 60pc of the national average.

“It’s not just down to the doctors, it’s down to the nursing staff,” said Dr Carter. “It’s a combination of many things, it’s having an environment where we have an interest in making things better, it’s everyone being open to ideas from the cleaner upwards.”

As well as saving lives, the breathing tube is saving the NHS up to £10,000 for every case of pneumonia it prevents.

“If you get people better faster, their journey through the hospital is shorter and cheaper,” said Dr Carter.

The mortality figure is arrived at via a complex calculation which weighs up the likelihood of a patient’s survival, depending on the condition with which they are admitted to hospital. Intensive care units have high mortality rates, because they treat patients with the most serious, life-threatening conditions.

The QEH’s mortality rate in intensive care was between 50 and 62pc last year. The Norfolk and Norwich Hospital’s rate was between 51 and 63pc and the James Paget Hospital’s was 81pc.

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