Mortality rate alert at three Yorkshire NHS trusts

Andrew Lansley
Andrew Lansley
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HUNDREDS more patients than expected have died after treatment at three Yorkshire NHS trusts, a new study of hospital death rates has revealed.

The York, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole, and Hull and East Yorkshire NHS trusts are among 14 singled out in England in the analysis of deaths occurring in hospital and within 30 days of discharge.

Death rates at the three were 15 per cent higher than expected and a third higher than in Sheffield’s hospitals trust, which is rated among the 14 best-performing in the country and the only one outside London and East Anglia to have rates significantly below that expected.

According to the analysis, there were nearly 200 excess deaths at York’s hospital in 2010-11, more than 400 at Hull’s hospitals and nearly 300 at the Northern Lincolnshire trust, which runs hospitals in Grimsby, Scunthorpe and Goole.

In contrast, there were more than 600 fewer than expected in Sheffield. Airedale, Leeds, Harrogate, Bradford and South Tees trusts together had more than 500 fewer deaths than expected.

NHS chiefs say the figures – drawn up in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal – could offer an “early trigger” for potential problems but admit performance could also be explained by local circumstances or data problems.

Last night hospital bosses in York said figures for the local hospice had been mistakenly included in the data, which had driven up the recorded rates.

The new indicator compares numbers of deaths following treatment with numbers of expected deaths, allowing for the characteristics of patients being treated.

Most hospitals had death rates within expected limits but the figures exposed huge variations. There were 80 per cent more deaths at the George Eliot trust in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, compared with London’s Whittington trust which was the best performer of nearly 150 organisations.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the measures would make the NHS more transparent to the public and safer.

“This new measure will help ensure patient safety by acting like a smoke alarm to prompt further investigation,” he said.

“Alongside other data, this will help the NHS in future to spot and act on poor care as soon as possible.”

Alastair Turnbull, medical director at York, said its mortality figures had been increased “very substantially” by the inclusion of the hospice’s deaths and it was expecting its performance would be significantly revised downwards.

Nevertheless work was under ay to improve patient safety with a view to ensuring numbers of deaths were as low as possible, he added.

Phil Morley, chief executive at Hull, said he was confident the trust provided a safe level of care for patients.

The new figures did not provide a full assessment of its quality of care and also took no account of care given to dying patients.

“We will also be working with the primary care trusts across all areas of health to provide improved care for dying patients in the community and in their homes rather than in a hospital setting,” he added.

A spokesman for the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole trust said recent independent inspections had uncovered no major issues over the quality of care.

“Nevertheless, we are reviewing all aspects of clinical care and the organisation of care to make sure that our mortality ratios are as low as possible,” he added.

Mike Richmond, medical director at Sheffield, said the figures confirmed low mortality rates at its hospitals for common conditions including stroke, heart failure, septicaemia and pneumonia.

“This independent report recognises the continued hard work of our staff to ensure we do everything possible to provide high quality care for our patient.”

The NHS Information Centre, which collects the figures, said the York trust had filed incorrect statistics for three months of 2010-11, which had been excluded, and confirmed it had also wrongly submitted figures for the hospice.