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Sunday, 31 August 2014

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North Cumbria hospitals' death rate shock

Shocking death rate figures have revealed the scale of the crisis at North Cumbria’s hospitals.

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The figures show that the North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust, which runs the Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle and West Cumberland Hospital in Whitehaven, is among the worst performing in the country.

The man in charge of Northumbria Healthcare, which is in the process of acquiring the Cumbrian trust, has warned that the situation cannot be brought under control permanently until the acquisition is completed.

Describing the figures as a “real cause for concern”, chief executive Jim Mackey said: “The scale of change required can not happen overnight. Our view is that we must complete the acquisition as soon as possible so that all the required changes can be made as soon as possible.”

The report, compiled by research group Dr Foster Intelligence and released this morning, assesses deaths at hospitals based on four measures, and the trust is one of only 12 found to have death rates “higher than expected” in two of the four criteria.

In one of those measures, the trust was among the five worst performing – only two trusts received a higher hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR) figure than the Cumbrian trust, with two others equalling the figure.

HSMR compares the number of actual deaths at a hospital with the number that would normally be expected.

Figures for a second measure of deaths also found that NCUH was recording figures higher than expected.

Last year, the Dr Foster report put the trust on a list of 19 in the country with a high number of deaths.

While North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust admits it has not acted quickly enough to reduce death rates, it insists work is already underway to improve the situation.

Mike Walker, medical director, said: “We have not given it the priority we should have done.

“We recognised at the beginning of the year we need to look at it, and at that point we addressed it much more seriously.”

A statement from the trust, said: “Since the interim management arrangements were put in place in September 2012 by Northumbria, the interim chief executive Ann Farrar – with staff from NCUH – have identified the safety and quality priorities that need to be addressed urgently. For example, there are a number of clinical services manned by teams that often struggle with temporary or insufficient consultant junior medical cover.

“Staff surveys indicate that the pressure of the current situation has impacted upon the staff experience and this is known to be a key driver of problems with clinical quality and patient experience.”

It revealed that the investigation had shown that while staff are committed, the current circumstances mean standards have not always been up to the level they would like.

“This standard has been directly affected by financial issues compounding the problem despite the real drive that the clinical team have had to make real improvements,” the statement said.

Jeremy Rushmer, director of clinical transformation, said changing the rates was not straightforward, but that work was ongoing with staff as a priority.

He said: “It is not an easy journey to look at what you’re not happy about and to generate the momentum to do that can be very hard if staff are unhappy about all sorts of other things.

“It is the right thing to do though.

“I think what has impressed me is that as soon as we’ve asked the questions, there has been a very clear response from the clinical staff and they are determined to try and improve things.”

The acquisition was due to have been completed by April 1, 2013, but the News & Star revealed last week that this has been delayed.

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