‘No real cause for concern’

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AS a high level probe is launched into the mortality rates at Blackpool Victoria Hospital, Rebecca Draper looks into the reasons behind the figures.

THE Govenerment has launched an investigation into the number of people dying at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.

The trust which runs the resort’s hospital is one of five being looked at for a high mortality rate over two years from 2010 to 2012.

The figures show that in the two-year period, 2,409 patients died after treatment at The Vic, yet doctors only expected around 1,900 deaths.

The data is compared with that from 142 health trusts in England using a Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI), which creates a national average of 100. Anything higher than 100 is classed as a higher-than-expected mortality rate.

In Blackpool the figure was 123.3 up to 2012, putting the trust in the spotlight as the Government looks at NHS failings.

But trust bosses today said the mortality figures on their own were a quality control warning which, once looked into, gave no cause for concern.

Medical director Dr Mark O’Donnell said: “These figures don’t tell us very much at all.

“We have known about them for the past two years or longer, and have been working with our local partners to ensure that, although our standard of mortality is apparently high, the level of care in the hospital is also very good.

“We have no cause for concern.”

Health chiefs say the SHMI for July to September last year was down to 102.2 which is “going in the right direction”.

Dr O’Donnell said the probable reason behind the higher-than-expected death rate was patients’ conditions being worse than first diagnosed.

He said: “Say someone comes in with breathlessness, the risk of them dying from that is very low.

“So if that patient then dies we get the higher SHMI because the expected risk of death was low.

“If you follow that patient from admissions and find the reason for the breathlessness was because they had lung cancer their risk of dying would have been higher.

“We have a problem historically at the front door of getting the exact diagnosis.

“Our SHMI is, in our view, artificial.”

Dr O’Donnell said the hospital had begun an education campaign at the hospital admissions unit, bringing in more emergency physicians to give a more accurate diagnoses earlier on.

The hospital review will be run by the NHS Commissioning Board and Department of Health medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.

Director of nursing and quality at The Vic, Marie Thompson said the trust welcomed the review.

She added: “We’ve done a lot of excellent work within the organisation, but we welcome anything we can learn from and the views from the national team.

“We are confident they will support our view we provide good quality of care for the local population.”

Hospital is not a danger

“WE are not Stafford.”

That was the message from hospital bosses who are fielding a Government investigation into high mortality rates in Blackpool hospitals.

It comes after a report detailed failings at the Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust which led to the unnecessary deaths of up to 1,200 patients.

The Vic’s medical director Dr Mark O’Donnell said the mortality figures were more of a smoke signal, indicating the need for an assessment into the hospital’s quality measures.

Dr O’Donnell said: “It is important for the public population to recognise that to have a high reported standard of mortality does not mean we are failing as a Trust, or this hospital is a dangerous place to be.

“We have looked into our other measures of quality, which are very good.
The hospital has also recorded year-on-year improvements on hospital infections.”

The trust’s director of nursing and quality, Marie Thompson added: “If you look at three or four years ago, there were more than 400 cases of hospital infection. Now we’re looking at 24 cases.

“Over the last three years cases of MRSA have seen an 80 per cent reduction, and there are fewer patients with pressure ulcers year on year. We have more executive engagement with staff.”

The trust also says there is now more external scrutiny into its work, and it holds regular meetings with the director of public health at Blackpool Primary Care Trust, Dr Arif Rajpura.

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