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Hospital Healthcare Europe

High death rate at trust probed

18 March, 2008  

A claim that a UK National Health Service (NHS) trust experiences higher death rates “than normal” is being investigated.

The Healthcare Commission has launched a probe after data from Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust showed the rates were “out of normal range”.

The investigation is to focus on patients admitted to the trust as emergencies.

Following concern from patients, it will also examine the quality of care provided across the trust, in particular to older people.

Nationally, the standardised mortality rate (SMR) is set at 100 so any figure above this reveals a higher than expected death rate. The trust released figures showing the SMR was 127 in 2005/06.

The trust’s chief executive, Martin Yeates, said: “We worked with the Strategic Health Authority and investigated this apparently high mortality rate and concluded that it was due to problems in the way we were recording and coding information about patients.

“We have, over the last year, employed more clinical coding experts to work within the various speciality departments to help staff to record information and improve the quality of data.

“As a result, there has been a significant improvement in our SMR and our processes have been confirmed as being appropriate by our internal auditors.”

But following an alert indicating a higher than normal death rate among the data, the Healthcare Commission said it would investigate the issue.

Nigel Ellis, the Commission’s head of investigations, said: “An apparently high rate of mortality does not necessarily mean there are problems with safety. It may be there are other factors here such as the way that information about patients is recorded by the trust. Either way it does require us to ask questions, which is why we are carrying out this investigation.”

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Staffordshire NHS Trust