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A&E nurses in pilot study to improve carbon monoxide poisoning detection

Emergency department nurses are taking part in a study into how staff can better detect and treat carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.
CO poisoning

Emergency department (ED) nurses at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey are taking part in a study into how staff can better detect and treat carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Dubbed the silent killer, CO poisoning is believed to cause about 40 deaths and 200 emergency admissions in the UK every year.

The 15-month study is being funded by research charity the Gas Safety Trust. The trust warns that patients with symptoms of CO poisoning are being misdiagnosed and sent home, risking further damage to their health or even death.

The study, led by Frimley Park Hospital consultant emergency physician Simon Clarke, will ask patients presenting with possible CO poisoning symptoms such as chest pain, headache or seizures to complete a health questionnaire.

Misdiagnosis

Staff will also check if the patient has raised carboxyhaemoglobin levels in the blood, which is an indicator CO is causing damage to the

Emergency department (ED) nurses at Frimley Park Hospital in Surrey are taking part in a study into how staff can better detect and treat carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning.

Dubbed the ‘silent killer’, CO poisoning is believed to cause about 40 deaths and 200 emergency admissions in the UK every year.

The 15-month study is being funded by research charity the Gas Safety Trust. The trust warns that patients with symptoms of CO poisoning are being misdiagnosed and sent home, risking further damage to their health or even death.

The study, led by Frimley Park Hospital consultant emergency physician Simon Clarke, will ask patients presenting with possible CO poisoning symptoms such as chest pain, headache or seizures to complete a health questionnaire.

Misdiagnosis

Staff will also check if the patient has raised carboxyhaemoglobin levels in the blood, which is an indicator CO is causing damage to the red blood cells.

If levels are raised and the questionnaire answers suggest possible CO poisoning, then a registered gas engineer will be sent to investigate the scene of the suspected exposure.

Gas Safety Trust chair Chris Bielby said: 'It is a longstanding concern of the trust that, due to the similarity of symptoms, people are being misdiagnosed and sent home, and that healthcare professionals do not always ask the right questions.

'We hope this study will give us some understanding of the scale of the problem and bring some pressure to bear on policy makers to take action on this important and under-recognised issue.'

RCN response

RCN Emergency Care Association chair Janet Youd welcomed the study but questioned the resources and time needed to carry out the survey if it were to be rolled out across the country.

She said: 'It sounds a bit of a double-edged sword – between ED nurses absolutely needing to provide that kind of public health promotion work, and not wanting already chock-a-block departments to be swamped with people who fear they are at risk of carbon monoxide poisoning when they are not.

'Provided you have the space to see patients like this and the resources, then of course it can only be a benefit to patients.'

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