Probe launched into mortality figures

An investigation has been launched into shocking mortality rate figures at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
An investigation has been launched into shocking mortality rate figures at Blackpool Victoria Hospital.
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An independent review has been launched after Fylde’s hospitals were named as having some of the worst death rates in the country.

Figures show 2,371 people died in 2010/11 in the care of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust – which governs Blackpool Victoria Hospital – 340 more deaths than had been predicted.

The trust has the fourth highest death rate in the country for patients within 30 days of them receiving treatment.

While hospital bosses say the Department of Health statistics should be treated with “caution”, due to underlying factors such as the town’s high level of deprivation, some patients today told The Gazette they were “concerned”.

The number of patient deaths has been thrust under the spotlight by research company Dr Foster in its annual hospital guide.

Dr Foster names the trust as having higher than expected figures in two of four mortality benchmarks – including deaths after treatment and deaths based on high-risk conditions such as pneumonia and congestive heart failure.

Blackpool hospital bosses decided to launch an “independent external review” after the Department of Health statistics were released.

Dr Paul Kelsey, medical director for the trust, said: “This review will focus upon the quality of clinical care, the quality of data and the provision of services in the community.”

Dr Kelsey believes the data collection method used by the DoH did not take deprivation into account.

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He added: “The data should be treated with caution as it does not give a true reflection of the quality of care patients can expect.

“Blackpool has among the highest levels of deprivation in the country with lower than average life expectancy. The town also has higher than average deaths related to alcohol, smoking, IV drug use and heart disease and as the data is not adjusted to reflect this, our figures will be higher.

“What is important is we continue to focus on improving outcomes for patients and ensure our services and procedures are clinically safe”.

Dr Foster, which works closely with the DoH, said death rates appeared higher than they should be in more than a quarter of trusts in England.

The Dr Foster guide has also drawn attention to a “worrying” spike in deaths during weekends.

At 147 trusts across the country, death rates raised by 10 per cent during weekends compared with weekdays.

On a ratio, where 100 is broadly average for death rates, Blackpool scores 117 on the Summary Hospital-Level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) which shows deaths after hospital treatment and up to 30 days after discharge.

On a weekend, this rises to 123.6.

Only George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Nuneaton, Isle of Wight NHS PCT and East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust posted higher SHMI figures than Blackpool.

Hospital bosses argue they use the Risk Adjusted Mortality Index (RAMI), which allows for factors such as deprivation. They say their RAMI rating for September 2011 was 97 – beating the national average.

Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden welcomed the review.

He said: “I think the hospital is right to be concerned about the issue of mortality rates raised in these reports.

“Deprivation is an issue affecting the health of people in Blackpool and I am not surprised if this is a factor for our death rates being higher. I do think looking at the reasons for this is a priority and I welcome an internal inquiry being held.

“There are other questions which need raising as a result of the Dr Foster report including deaths after hip operations and mortality rates rising at weekends.”

One woman, who has lodged a complaint with Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust over the care of her father, said the figures were concerning.

Sue Formby, from South Shore, claims low staffing levels at Blackpool Victoria Hospital led to her father, Frederick Westrop, being left in soaked sheets.

Clinical waste was found underneath his bed and his daughter had to cut him free from tight clothing.

She said: “I heard the worst time to go into hospital was at the weekend because the staffing levels are worse. It is a concern.

“I think the NHS is in the spotlight at the moment, and rightly so.

“We work and pay our taxes and we want the best for our family. But that’s not what we get these days.

“My problem was my father wasn’t receiving the care he should have been.

“The staff themselves were great but there weren’t enough of them and that’s why errors were made.

“The hospitals need more staff.”

Another woman, who almost died after an error caused a weeping wound in her leg, says improvements need to be made in the hospitals trust.

Caroline Taylor, from Sagar Drive, Freckleton, was allergic to a cream given to her at Clifton Hospital in Ansdell.

She had been rushed to Blackpool Victoria Hospital after her leg had gone septic.

The 61-year-old said: “It was so frightening, it was very disturbing. I’m still having to see the nurse every other day.

“I wouldn’t go back to Blackpool for anything now. I asked to be transferred to Preston.”

Dr Kelsey said Blackpool was one of 10 trusts to take part in a national study which looked at the case notes of 100 deceased patients to see if their deaths could have been avoidable. He said the trust had the second lowest number of avoidable deaths.