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Death rates to be investigated at 25 NHS trusts

25th March 2010

A leading health expert has said that 25 NHS trusts in England need to be investigated over higher than normal death rates.

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Professor Brian Jarman, an emeritus professor at London's Imperial College School of Medicine, has highlighted trusts with a higher than expected Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR).

He believes that some 4,600 more patients have died in those trusts in 2007/08 than should have been expected to do so.

While it may not mean the hospitals are doing anything wrong, he says an investigation may identify wider issues.

At present a mortality alert is triggered by high death levels, but this system is discredited in some quarters and also there is a recognition that there could be problems over the way deaths are recorded.

Prof Jarman wants the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to investigate each of the trusts, which have at least 150 more unexpected deaths, rather than see them rely on self-assessments.

He said: "The regulator uses a method which I think is fundamentally flawed, which is that only 20% of hospitals are inspected every year."

Health minister Mike O'Brien say the government will look at Professor Jarman's data but pointed out the CQC had conducted a regional review of all the trusts identified as having high mortality ratios and had no current concerns.

However, he did acknowledge the limitations of the self-assessment system.

"Self-assessment I think has in the past been over-relied upon and that's why we've changed the way in which regulation is carried out", he said.

 

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