Home oxygen fires cause hundreds of patient deaths and thousands of injuries around the world every year.
But according to a Freedom of Information request to local National health Service (NHS) organisations conducted by medical gas specialist BPR Medical, home oxygen fires in England led to only one death between 2013 and 2017.
BPR asked 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in England how many incidents and fatalities involving home oxygen they had recorded for each year over the five-year period.
Nearly three-quarters of CCGs responded to the request, with only one fatality reported, in the Yorkshire and Humberside region in November 2013. During this period CCGs also recorded a total of 63 non-fatal incidents.
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.
The data, published in BPR Medical’s White Paper ‘Home Oxygen Fire Prevalence in England (2013-17)’, reveals that there are almost twenty times more home oxygen fatalities in the US - and ten times more in Japan - compared with England.
During the same five-year period in the US, the number of fatalities involving home oxygen fires, when adjusted to reflect the equivalent patient population in England, was 27. In Japan, it was 14. Neither country has adopted the same home oxygen safety processes as England and Wales or made firebreaks mandatory across the entire home oxygen patient population.
Richard Radford, Managing Director, BPR Medical, said, “The results of the study are even more impressive then we imagined. They show that adopting a programme of best practice to tackle the issue of home oxygen fire safety, including patient education, risk assessments, and the universal use of oxygen firebreaks among all patients, has had a dramatic impact on patient safety.”
“Above all, it proves that this approach has the potential to prevent hundreds of needless deaths and thousands of injuries that result from home oxygen fires around the world every year.
“We hope that health authorities everywhere will review their policies towards reducing the very serious risks associated with home oxygen fires and adopt the same approach as the NHS in England and Wales.”