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Colchester: MPs to meet with hospital chief over high death rate

10:35 08 February 2013

Reassurances issued after investigation into mortality rates at Colchester Hospital.

Reassurances issued after investigation into mortality rates at Colchester Hospital.

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MPs in north Essex are today holding urgent talks with the chief executive of Colchester’s hospitals over high death rates.

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Yesterday Prime Minister David Cameron said Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust would be among five trusts investigated for higher than expected mortality rates over the last two years.

But MPs remain upbeat about the level of care offered and believe that Colchester’s hospitals are improving.

MP for Colchester Sir Bob Russell and Harwich and north Essex MP Bernard Jenkin are meeting with its chief executive Dr Gordon Coutts this morning.

Sir Bob said: “I was surprised Colchester was named as one of five trusts to be investigated but I have sensed perhaps things were not as good as they could be. Over the last two to three years the number of complaints from family members about Colchester hospital has been greater than the previous ten years but there could be two different explanations for this.

“One, things are getting worse or two, people are more likely to register their concerns.

“I want to find out what the problems are and I will be asking what is being done to put them right so patients and families are assured they are getting the best possible treatment and service, while raising the morale of staff.”

Between July 2011 and June 2012 there were 2,151 patient deaths recorded at Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital – 16% higher than predicted. Figures for the previous year were even higher at 2,233.

The figures compare the number of patients who die following hospitalisation with the number who would be expected to die. It also includes patients who have died within 30 days of discharge.

Harwich and north Essex MP Bernard Jenkin said: “These figures have elements of subjectivity because the death rates reflect the patient profile - Colchester General admits a very high number of elderly people.

“How they deal with and respond to complaints, this culture of denial, does not exist at Colchester.

“I am very happy for Colchester’s hospitals to be investigated. There will always be cases that must be investigated from which lessons can be learned.

“Following the changes in management I am more confident now than I had been for decades.

“Staff morale is better and their sense of engagement is better.”

This investigation into the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust follows the publication of the Francis report into serious abuse and neglect at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.

Spokesman for patient group Essex and Southend LINK, Peter Blackman said; “We welcome the publication of the Francis report and understand the reasons why further investigations are taking place to see if there are any issues from our knowledge of what’s been going on over the last couple of years.

“We know that Colchester General Hospital is taking the matter very seriously and taking measures to reduce their mortality rate.”

A spokesman for Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust said: “We are grateful for the many supportive comments that have been made and look forward to briefing Sir Bob and Mr Jenkin in the morning.

“We too welcome the announcement that NHS Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is to lead an investigation into performance at acute hospital trusts.

“We take all quality issues extremely seriously, and will of course co-operate fully with the investigation.”

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