Hospitals warned over ‘persistently high’ death rates

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new figures have revealed death rates at five NHS trusts in England have been “persistently high” for two years.

The high mortality rates – seen as an early warning of potential problems – have been reported for two years running at the East Lancashire, Tameside, Colchester, Blackpool, and Basildon and Thurrock NHS trusts.

Eleven trusts had lower than expected deaths for two years – all but two in the Greater London area.

Latest figures found others also had higher than expected numbers of deaths in the year to June including the Northern Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust which saw 2,286 deaths over the period, 350 more than anticipated.

The best performing trusts in the region over the 12 months, with eight per cent fewer deaths than expected, were Leeds, Sheffield and Airedale.

The figures measure all deaths in hospital as well as those within 30 days of discharge.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said they could not be used in isolation but hospital chiefs needed to act if there were problems.

He said: “I expect trusts to examine this data carefully and take action to investigate if necessary and ensure they are providing safe, high quality care.”

The Northern Lincolnshire and Goole trust has persistently been singled out for its higher mortality rates. In September a review made 40 recommendations for changes over concerns of nurse shortages as well as “shortcomings” in clinical practice. It also said managers had not given high death rates sufficient priority.

Every death in its hospitals in Goole, Scunthorpe and Grimsby is now reviewed and other measures are being put in place to improve care in the community.

Medical director Liz Scott said: “Mortality is still the trust’s number one quality priority and patient safety is paramount.

“As we have said previously, this remains an issue for the whole health community, not just the hospital trust, and we are still working with our commissioners and other health and social care providers to make sure that all possible factors are addressed.

“I am confident clinical safety in our hospitals is high and patients can be assured of receiving high quality treatment.”

Rineke Schram, medical director at the East Lancashire trust which covers the Burnley and Blackburn areas, said: “Clinicians at the trust systematically review mortality data from all causes.

“This includes reviewing every patient’s death to see if anything could have been done differently and looking at trends and patterns in disease categories to see if different treatments or methods of management should be introduced.”