FAMILIES and health bosses today welcomed news of a major inquiry – announced by Prime Minister David Cameron – into high death rates at Fylde coast hospitals.
It has been revealed Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust is one of five trusts nationwide to be investigated by the NHS Commissioning Board after having worryingly high mortality rates for two years running.
The probe was sparked after a report was published into neglect and mistreatment at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Trust and the PM revealed a raft of changes designed to ensure any future failures in NHS organisations were detected and dealt with effectively.
Lucia Frankitt, of Lytham Road, South Shore, was among those happy at the investigation.
She has questioned procedures at Blackpool Victoria Hospital and lobbied for answers since her husband Kevin died on the wards in 2011.
Mrs Frankitt told The Gazette: “This should have been done a long time ago. It’s come far too late. They don’t have a strong track record for care because there’s a terrible lack of communication between nurses and consultants.
“Nursing levels are now under-staffed and it needs to be a vocation, not just a job.”
Kevin Frankitt-Meek, 45, died after developing an infection following a routine operation on his throat, and Mrs Frankitt claims his death could have been prevented. The hospital has since admitted it fell below standards in the tragic case.
The probe, announced yesterday, comes after it was revealed Fylde coast hospitals were found to have a high Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator figures (SHMI) – used to record deaths after treatment - for two successive years to 2012.
The SHMI is equated from a national average of 100 and the ratio of that figure and the actual number of deaths which occur at the trust.
Resort health chiefs say their latest statistics show a drop to 102.3 – close to the standard – from the high rate of 123.3 previously.
The trust also said its own inquiry into mortality data, concluded there were no areas of concern over patient care and the new Government probe would help reassure patients.
Dr Mark O’Donnell, medical director of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, added: “We recently commissioned an independent review of our mortality rates that involved interviews with clinicians and managers and a detailed review of mortality data and patient case notes.
“The report concluded there was no cause for clinical concern about patient care however we welcome any further assurance this review can give to our trust, patients and the public.
“In the past 12 months a significant amount of work has taken place across the trust, including the setting up of a Mortality Board made up of clinicians to drive forward improvements.”
Mr Cameron also announced the creation of a chief inspector of hospitals to tackle falling standards.
Vernon Allen, a Freckleton-basedformer representative on the Patient and Public Involvement (PPI) Forum, has backed the decision.
He said: “I’m delighted there’s going to be a thorough inquiry into mortality cases and this has to be done to further improve the care of patients.
“The Vic is an excellent hospital and these high rates can be caused by various issues, including a shortage of staff.”
Gordon Marsden, Labour MP for Blackpool South, said it was important to review the figures.
He added: “I will follow with interest and concern the process of this.
“It’s entirely reasonable people would wish to be reassured about this.
“I have raised this issue in the past with the trust about the mortality rate statistics, which are complex.”
Paul Maynard, Conservative MP for Blackpool North and Cleveleys, added: “I welcome an investigation into these figures and I hope patients will be reassured when the conclusions are reached, because it’s right to be concerned. I understand the hospital has already made numerous steps to improve and I hope the investigation can reach a decision soon.”