Study: US oxygen fatalities far outnumber those in England

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Friday, March 22, 2019

LONDON – Home oxygen fatalities in the US are nearly twenty times than in England, according to new research from BPR, a medical gas specialist.

BPR used data from local health service organizations (clinical commissioning groups) in England to compare how many incidents and fatalities were recorded in that country between 2013 and 2017 to that same time period in the US.

Among the 73% of English CCGs that responded, one fatality and 63 non-fatal incidents were recorded. When the results are extrapolated to cover the full home oxygen patient population in England and Wales (81,000), the results would be 89 incidents and 1.4 deaths—a significantly lower rate than any previous study in the UK or elsewhere.

During the same five-year period in the US, the number of fatalities involving home oxygen fires was approximately 500, with an estimated 5,950 burn incidents recorded at emergency rooms. When adjusted to reflect the equivalent patient population in England, the number of deaths over five years is 27—almost twenty times more.

Since 2006 England and Wales have adopted a number of processes to improve home oxygen safety, including patient education and risk assessments. At the same time firebreaks, also known as thermal fuses or fire stop valves, which stop the flow of oxygen in the event of a fire in the tube, became mandatory across the entire home oxygen patient population.

“This study shows that adopting a program of best practice to tackle the issue of home oxygen fire safety, including the universal use of thermal fuses among all home oxygen patients, can have a dramatic impact on patient safety,” said Richard Radford, managing director at BPR Medical, in a press release.

Download the report.