A CAMPAIGNER whose daughter died from a deep vein thrombosis days after warning doctors she was ill said he is "very disappointed" by figures showing an increase in blood clot deaths among females under 40.

Gordon McPherson requested a breakdown deaths from DVT, pulmonary embolism (PE), and venous thromboembolism (VTE) by age group in Scotland from 2002 to 2020.

The data, from National Records of Scotland (NRS), show that there were a total of 73 deaths in females under 40 between 2002 and 2006 where a DVT, PE or VTE was cited as the underlying cause, falling to 44 between 2008 and 2012.

However, in the five years leading up to the pandemic, the deaths nearly doubled to 81.


Pregnancy, taking taking the Pill, and being overweight or obese all increase the risk of blood clots, along with cancer treatment, trauma injuries and a family history.

Although the numbers are comparatively small, the trend contrasts with an overall decline in blood clot deaths in the female population from a total of 684 in 2002 to 361 by 2019, and a decrease of around 10 per cent in men under-40.

The spread of Covid - which is known to make blood stickier, and more prone to clotting - appears to have triggered a spike in blood clot deaths in 2020, when they claimed the lives of 446 women in Scotland including 22 under-40s.

READ MORE: Father warns over 50 per cent increase in DVT death rates in some health boards

However, Mr McPherson, said he was puzzled by the pre-pandemic increase.

He said: "You would expect to see it going down - I don't understand it. It's very disappointing.

"It could be that people aren't being given enough information. Girls should really be getting tested for hereditary risks being they're being handed the Pill.

"People need to be made aware what to look out for, and how to reduce their risks with things like gentle exercise and drinking plenty of fluids, but there just seems to be no interest in raising awareness.

"That's what frustrates me."

HeraldScotland: A DVT and pulmonary embolism combined is known as a venous thromboembolism (VTE)A DVT and pulmonary embolism combined is known as a venous thromboembolism (VTE)

In January 2003, Katie McPherson, a 23-year-old student occupational therapist, developed a pain in her lower leg.

She attended both the Edinburgh Royal Infirmary and Royal Alexandra Hospital in Paisley, but both wrongly dismissed DVT as the cause - despite warnings from Ms McPherson herself.

Days later, she fell seriously ill at home and died on her way to hospital.

Mr McPherson said: "There was a change in Katie's contraceptive pill nine days before she died, and we cannot prove one way or another [whether that was the cause], but it's a factor.

"She went into the ERI and said 'I think I've got a DVT', but they said 'no, you don't'. They didn't bother giving her any of the DVT injections. Five £1 injections [to thin the blood] would have saved her life."

HeraldScotland: Katie McPhersonKatie McPherson

Mr McPherson said he was later shown an ultrasound which revealed that his daughter's leg had been "a mass of DVTs".

An investigation by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman criticised different approaches to dealing with DVT between hospitals as a factor in Katie's death.

It called for the creation of national guidance and a standardised take-home leaflet for all patients tested for DVT was also created, with funding from taxpayers and charity, in memory of Ms McPherson.

However, subsequent investigations over the years have uncovered ongoing inconsistencies in how updated guidelines were being applied, and leaflets being binned unused.

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Mr McPherson, from Renfrewshire, said he is also concerned over confusing discrepancies in thrombosis mortality data.

According to the NRS data, obtained under freedom of information, the total number of people dying from a DVT, PE or VTE where one of these were cited as the single underlying cause of death on their death certificate fell from 720 in 2002 to 644 in 2019. 

However, over the same period, deaths where clots were mentioned as contributory factors on the death certificate climbed by 17%, to 3,285. 

This might be expected by an ageing population, but separate figures supplied by the Scottish Government following a parliamentary question by Jackie Baillie MSP, put the total number of “thrombosis-related deaths” in 2019 much higher at just under 9000. 

HeraldScotland: Source: Thrombosis UKSource: Thrombosis UK

Mr McPherson is now seeking clarification on why the figures are so different, and is pushing for the Scottish Government to do more to reduce the death toll from fatal blood clots.

He said: "We're talking about anything up to 9000 deaths a year, but there seems to be no impetus from the Scottish Government to do anything about it."

Prof Simon Noble, a consultant in palliative care and medical director for charity Thrombosis UK, said blood clot deaths tended to be underestimated.

He said: "These data illustrate that venous thromboembolism is a significant cause of death which is not restricted to the elderly; it can affect anyone.

"Unfortunately the system to capture these figures is not perfect and the true number of thrombosis-related deaths is likely to be much higher.

"We encourage everyone to be aware of the signs and symptoms of thrombosis and to access medical help if they are worried they may have developed a deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolus.”

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The Scottish Government said it "regularly reviews its plans for public awareness campaigns", but had no current plans for a thrombosis campaign.

It added that health board have access to "a range tools and resources" to reduce mortality among patients at risk of harm from blood clots.