Health trust defends its record

By James HoreA HEALTH trust has defended its record for patient care after a hospital guide revealed it had one of the highest patient death rates in the country.

By James Hore

A HEALTH trust has defended its record for patient care after a hospital guide revealed it had one of the highest patient death rates in the country.

On a mortality index carried out by an independent guide, Essex Rivers Healthcare Trust was ranked as having the second highest death levels of 17 hospitals in the Eastern region and the 12th highest in the country.

The results, complied by Doctor Foster, an independent publisher of healthcare guides, claimed the figures were a "crucial indicator of the quality of clinical care in a hospital".


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It said the mortality levels at the trust – which runs Colchester General Hospital and Essex County Hospital in Colchester – ran at least 10% above the expected level.

But the trust's waiting time performance was termed as "excellent", with only 20 trusts in England admitting a greater proportion of inpatients within six months of their referral.

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Its waiting times for patients were ranked as the best of the 17 hospitals in the Eastern region and the trust was also rated as the third best in the Eastern region for its average waiting time of 211 days for hip replacements.

A spokesman for the trust acknowledged the mortality rates did not look good, but claimed the results were out of date and a "statistical blip".

He said: "Those figures include Clacton and Tendring, which have not been part of our trust since April 2001.

"From April 1 of this year, those hospitals won't be included in the figures and we are confident that those hospitals distorted the mortality rate figures. There is a particularly elderly population in those areas, which therefore distorted the figures for the trust."

He admitted there was a problem of under-staffing, both in nursing and doctors, but pointed to the hospital's official three star rating – the highest level attainable.

"We have hit all the waiting list targets, which means no-one should be waiting more than 12 months for surgery, no-one should be waiting more than 21 weeks for their first outpatient appointment and 90% of patients in accident and emergency should be seen, treated and/or admitted within four hours," he added.

The survey also showed patients had a 90% trust in their doctors, there were 35 doctors to each 100 beds in the trust and 100 full-time nurses to 100 beds.

It added 100% of breast, lung, bowel and urology cancer patients were seen by a specialist within two weeks of being given an urgent referral by their GP for the quarter ending December 2002.

james.hore@eadt.co.uk

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