'Thousands of deaths in Wales could be avoided'.
Byline: Mark Smith and Claire Miller Health correspondent firstname.lastname@example.org
THOUSANDS of deaths could be avoided each year in Wales with better medical care or healthier lifestyles, new data has revealed.
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) says there were 7,981 recorded avoidable deaths in Wales in 2015.
Avoidable deaths are placed into two categories: preventable and amenable.
A death is classed as preventable if it could be avoided by public health interventions or looking after ourselves properly.
Amenable deaths are a collection of diseases, such as diabetes and appendicitis, that are potentially preventable given effective and timely healthcare.
But deaths from diseases such as measles, whooping cough and flu, which can be treated or prevented through vaccination, are classified as both amenable and preventable.
The same classification is given to breast, cervical and colon cancer - which are treatable and for which screening is offered - and diabetes, heart disease and HIV where there is health advice to reduce risks as well as treatment.
In total, the ONS said there were 6,657 preventable deaths in 2015 and 4,409 amenable deaths.
People in Cwm Taf, which covers Rhondda Cynon Taff and Merthyr, were the most likely to die avoidable deaths, with a rate of 296 per 100,000 people in 2015, although this was down from 298 per 100,000 in 2014.
In response, its deputy medical director Dr Ruth Alcolado said: "As a health board we have taken a range of measures to improve patient safety in recent years.
"This includes reducing the rates of healthcare acquired infections, with Cwm Taf University Health Board currently reporting the lowest rates of Clostridium difficile and MRSA bacteraemia rate across all health boards in Wales, educating and training staff around patient safety procedures and introducing Sepsis Six boxes to provide an immediate response for staff to treat patients."
She added that the health board's mortality reviews ensure all in-hospital deaths are looked at in a three-stage process.
She added: "We are also working with our partners to look at how we can best work with and support people to improve their health and wellbeing.
"We have already seen some progress including a fall in smoking rates in the last three years, the development of the Bump Start Programme to tackle maternal obesity, the expansion of the flu vaccination in schools, a reduction in the number of children aged 4-5 who are overweight or obese and a dramatic fall in teenage pregnancy rates.
"The health and wellbeing of our patients, staff and our wider population is our top priority.
"We will continue to find new and innovative ways of working as we strive to improve both the health of our residents and the quality and safety of our services."
In Cardiff and Vale University Health Board there were 971 avoidable deaths in 2015.
There were 1,432 avoidable deaths in the Abertawe Bro Morgannwg Health Board area in 2015, a rate of 275 per 100,000 people.
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