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Publication Type: Patient Safety Alert
Single or Multiple Incident: Multiple
Date: 8/8/2018 12:00:00 AM
Country: United Kingdom
Organization: NHS Commissioning Board

This alert discusses the patient safety incident that can occur with untreated hyperkalemia. Potassium is essential for the body’s normal function, including maintenance of normal heart rhythm. A higher than normal level of potassium in the blood can cause arrhythmias and cardiac arrest without warning. Hyperkalaemia is a potentially life-threatening emergency and that its timely identification, treatment and monitoring during and beyond initial treatment is essential. Over a recent three-year period, the National Reporting and Learning System (NRLS) received 35 reports of patients suffering cardiac arrest while hyperkalaemic. This alert provides access to resources on the NHS Improvement website that can help organisations ensure their clinical staff have easily accessible information to guide prompt investigation, treatment and monitoring options. The resources include an example of how hospitals could make this easier for their staff by pre-preparing sets of the equipment, guidance and medication they would need in an emergency. The resource webpage also includes short videos organisations can use to help frontline staff recognise that hyperkalaemia is a medical emergency and encourage them to familiarise themselves with local guidance and equipment. Recommended actions for hyperkalemia management are provided.

Resources to support safe and timely management of hyperkalaemia (high level of potassium in the blood)