Review team arrives in Blackpool for death rates probe

Mike Bewick arrives ahead of his team speaking to local residents and (inset) how The Gazette reported the news of the task force's inquiry.
Mike Bewick arrives ahead of his team speaking to local residents and (inset) how The Gazette reported the news of the task force's inquiry.

A task force has arrived at Blackpool Victoria Hospital ready to uncover the reasons why so many people die after treatment.

But the man leading the probe into high mortality rates at Blackpool’s hospitals trust quickly revealed he had not seen anything to give him “immediate concern”.

Mike Bewick, regional medical director for NHS North, said he believed “people do have faith in their local hospital”.

A team of experienced nurses, doctors and patient representatives are visiting Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, including the Vic, as part of the national Keogh Review.

The inquiry was ordered by the Government after it was revealed Fylde coast hospitals were found to have high Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator figures (SHMI) – those used to record deaths after treatment – for two successive years.

Last night, around 200 members of the public were able to share any concerns they had with the review team.

The figures show between 2010 and 2012, 2,409 patients died after treatment at The Vic – only 1,900 deaths had been expected in that time.

The data is compared with 142 health trusts in England which creates a national SHMI average of 100.

Anything higher than 100 is classed as having a higher-than-expected mortality rate.

Resort health chiefs said their latest statistics, as of February this year, showed a drop to 102.3 – close to the standard – from the high rate of 123.3 previously recorded.

In total 14 hospital trusts across the country – where mortality ratios are higher-than-expected for the past two years – are being looked at.

Led by the medical director of NHS England, Prof Sir Bruce Keogh, the review seeks to find out whether there are sustained failings in the quality of care and treatment provided to patients.

But Mr Bewick said: “Having visited the hospital (the Vic) I have found a level of competence which should reassure people the hospital trust realises it has to improve, so that excess mortality will come back in line with other trusts of a similar size and nature.

“It’s difficult for the public. I’s not like an extra 300 people have been killed off, it’s that you would have expected more people to be saved.

“I think people do have faith in their local hospital.

“I have not seen anything which would cause me immediate concern. Nothing which would make me go to the chief executive and say ‘there needs to be an immediate change’.

“I am concerned about the death rates, but work has already started at the trust.

“There is a new chief executive and relatively new chairman and medical director.”

A review team of more than 20 people are speaking to staff and patients.

Around 200 people met at the De Vere Hotel last night to air concerns about their experiences with Fylde coast hospitals to members of the review team. Mr Bewick said the team would be looking at what changes could be made to make “the institutions safer” and would cover as many aspects as possible in the two days, focusing on issues like those most at risk, such as the elderly.

He said: “The team is looking at what happens when someone is unwell and is brought in at A&E. (They are) looking at procedures, what happens when people become more unwell and at elective surgery.

“Every individual story will be taken into account, it might be about diagnosis, it might be about the length of time people waited for treatment.

“We will use all the information and ultimately provide guidance on what can be done to make the hospital a safer

Dr Mark O’Donnell, medical director of Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, said: “Our teams are already working very hard to improve the quality and safety of care for our patients but we know there are still things we can do better.

“We look forward to receiving the recommendations of the review team to see what more we can to make real, lasting, quality improvements for the future.”