Poor tracheostomy training is putting the lives of patients at risk, says a report conducted by the National Confidential Enquiry into Patient Outcome and Death (NCEPOD).

A tracheostomy is when a tube is inserted into the windpipe, allowing a critically ill patient to breathe without a ventilator. Around 12,000 procedures are performed in the UK every year.

Now a report by the NCEPOD says further tracheostomy training is needed, as just 28% of hospitals have trained staff to deal with common complications such as a blocked or dislodged airway.

Dr Kathy Wilkinson, a consultant in anaesthesia and an NCEPOD clinical co-ordinator, said: “There are more improvements that could be made and they’re around training.

“One of the most common complications is a displaced or blocked tube, the patients lose their airway and it is a life-threatening emergency.

“The skills to sort this out need to be available or the patient can get into a lot of trouble quite quickly.”

The report is supported by the Intensive Care Society (ICS) which suggested tracheostomy care was sometimes “below what is safe and reasonable”.

Mark Bellamy, president of the Intensive Care Society, said: “The ICS is concerned that levels of care available on general wards for patients with a tracheostomy in some cases fall below what is safe and reasonable.

“For this reason, intensive care units face delays in discharging patients with tracheostomies, who are otherwise well enough to be moved to general wards.”

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