Investigations & Analysis - Northern Ireland
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Issue 25 / 13 September 2011

We have not been told which hospitals, clinics, doctors etc reported the serious incidents

The 174 health care related deaths you didn’t know about

14 SEPTEMBER 2011 – KATHRYN TORNEY

Over 170 people died in health and social care linked serious adverse incidents in Northern Ireland in the 14 months up to the start of July, The Detail can reveal.

Reports by health authorities on the 82 deaths so far this year indicate that 26 of them may not have been reported to the Coroner’s Office, which is supposed to be informed of sudden, unnatural or violent deaths.

The reports have been heavily redacted to remove the location, timing and context of the incident – and sometimes the response of the authorities. The HSCB says this is to protect patient confidentiality.

However, the information which is visible shows that the deaths reported this year include suicides, deaths in hospitals, the death of “clients” discharged after failing to attend appointments and people who died following surgery.

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Stephen Murtagh knows fwhat it is like when a loved one dies in hospital
Stephen Murtagh knows fwhat it is like when a loved one dies in hospital

Heartbreak and frustration after a hospital death

14 SEPTEMBER 2011 – KATHRYN TORNEY

Stephen Murtagh knows from heartbreaking personal experience what it is like when a loved one dies in hospital.

His 31-year-old wife Janine died in November 2002 in the Royal Victoria Hospital six weeks after what was meant to be a routine procedure to investigate fertility problems.

Nine years on and after a series of investigations into his wife’s death, Stephen is still waiting for action which would remove the risk of the tragedy being repeated.

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Zamadol capsules
Zamadol capsules

The price of pain relief

04 SEPTEMBER 2011 – NICOLE KEOHANE

THE powerfully addictive nature of the painkiller tramadol hydrochloride is laid bare today by a former user who has described how it turned her from a happy stable woman to a suicide risk in a matter of weeks.

“Helen” suffered extreme withdrawal and side effects to the painkiller which is emerging as the prescription drug of choice for pain relief here; 395,119 prescriptions of tramadol hydrochloride painkillers were issued in Northern Ireland last year alone.

She experienced rapid flares in body temperature, hallucinations, tremors, heart palpitations and an excruciating week of insomnia.

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The chemical dependency associated with tramadol is recognised by CITAP
The chemical dependency associated with tramadol is recognised by CITAP

The questions about prescribing

04 SEPTEMBER 2011 – NICOLE KEOHANE

THE increase in Tramadol prescriptions issued across Northern Ireland raises new questions about how powerful painkillers are managed by the health service.

Figures held by the Northern Ireland Prescription Database reveal prescriptions of tramadol hydrochloride painkillers have surged over the last ten years from 123,955 in 2000 to 395,119 in 2010.

We asked the Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety and its Health and Social Care Board how these long-term trends are monitored and policed.

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