‘Find your failings’ call over death-rate disparity

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HOSPITALS across the country have been urged to examine their performance after new figures revealed huge differences in death rates.

The findings, published for the first time, follow a national review of mortality figures in hospitals to enable variations to be better understood in the light of evidence emerging from the Mid Staffordshire Hospital scandal where hundreds of patients died.

The analysis showed 12 out of 16 NHS trusts serving people from the region had death rates within or well below expected levels.

But there were 900 more deaths than expected at the York, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole, and Hull and East Yorkshire trusts in 2010-11 which were identified as among 14 nationwide with above average numbers of deaths. Some concerns were also raised about the Scarborough trust where there were 130 excess deaths.

NHS medical director Prof Sir Bruce Keogh said the information should not be considered in isolation but urged hospitals to look at the figures and “identify where performance may be falling short”.

“Trusts with a low mortality rate could also provide valuable learning about how quality of care can be improved,” he said.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “It is essential the NHS looks critically and questioningly at this data and what it tells them about the quality of their services so that, if commissioners and providers have cause for concern, they take swift action improve standards.

“It is important this data is not considered in isolation, but in the context of a range of factors, including hospital location and what other local health and social services are available. We must remember there are many reasons why variations in mortality levels may occur. These indicators do not tell the whole story.”

Mark Andrews, medical director at Scarborough, said: “We are disappointed to be an outlier in this new indicator when our own internal mortality statistics show that we are continuing to make improvements. We will however be taking this seriously and will try to better understand the interpretation of these results.”

The Department of Health published other figures yesterday revealing numbers of people dying from heart attacks and strokes have dropped by two-fifths over the past decade.

Between 1999-2001 and 2008-10 the mortality rate for circulatory diseases in England for people under the age of 75 decreased by 41 per cent.

The improvements back up figures which show life expectancy has increased considerably – although much faster in the South compared to the North and even in Yorkshire there are stark differences with a boy in Hull born today living three years longer than two decades ago compared to a boy born in Hambleton, North Yorkshire, living six years longer.

Fewer people under the age of 75 died from cancer in 2008-10 compared to 1999-2001, with the mortality rate for cancer decreasing by 14 per cent.

Prof Jeremy Pearson, of the British Heart Foundation, said treatment breakthroughs had made a real difference but it was “completely unacceptable” that the chances of getting heart disease still depended on where people lived.