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Friday, 25 July 2014

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Experts to probe Cumbrian hospitals' death rates

A national health team is expected to come to West Cumberland Hospital and the Cumberland Infirmary next month to investigate their “higher-than-expected death rates”.

Mike Walker photo
Mike Walker

A ‘rapid review team’ will be supporting the North Cumbria University Hospitals Trust – which runs the hospitals – and 13 others across the country in the wake of the Mid Staffordshire health scandal.

The north Cumbria trust started looking into death rates last year after the Dr Foster research group revealed it was one of 12 in the country to have death rates higher than expected in two of four criteria.

As a result it has put together its own action plan to address issues – which includes monitoring deaths on a weekly basis across both hospitals.

And at yesterday’s North Cumbria Trust Board meeting, members heard that a lot of work had already been undertaken by local clinicians to investigate and reduce death rates and improve patient safety.

Mike Walker, medical director, said: “We are on a journey and we have got a fair bit to go but actions are in place and I would expect the mortality measures to come down over the next year. The real issue here is about improving quality of care and reducing harm across the organisation, that’s the aim.”

A large group of clinicians at the trust have carried out a full review of deaths, looking at over 1,100. From this review they said care was found to be safe but “for a few patients the outcomes could have been better”.

The trust plans to reduce harm by 50 per cent in two years by looking at areas including clinical care; leadership; better use of clinical information and improving identification and care for patients who are dying. The trust’s latest death rate national indicator was said to be “as expected” but Mr Walker said it needed to be improved.

“We have got a lot of work to do to get us away from too close to the edge,” he added.

Health bosses are also seeking the views of staff and patients. The move follows a public inquiry into the catastrophic failings at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust which saw 1,200 people die needlessly.

The team, led by NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, will come to the hospitals to work with them to assure patients that hospitals with a higher than expected mortality rate understand the problem and have the right support to improve.

Ann Farrar, Trust interim chief executive, said it was the first time they had discussed a report on mortality in the public part of the trust board.

“If I was a member of the public I would be reassured by this,” she said.

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