Hospital's death rates above average

A BELEAGURED hospital trust has defended its death rates after it was highlighted as being above average in a national report.

Annie Davidson

A BELEAGURED hospital trust has defended itself for the second time in a matter of days after a report revealed its death rate was 12% higher than the national average.

Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust made headlines earlier this week after its chairman was sacked over failings to reach a number of NHS targets.

Richard Bourne had the backing of the trust members but was removed from his post by Monitor, a health trust regulator, using statutory powers.

Mr Bourne had been reappointed as chairman for the fifth year in September despite reservations from Monitor about Colchester Hospital's A and E waiting times, cancer targets and “unacceptably high” mortality rates.

Now it has emerged the hospital has been given a poor ranking from another independent body.

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The Hospital Guide published by Dr Foster gave the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust an overall rating of two, with one being the worst and five being the best.

It claimed the hospital had a mortality rate 12% higher than the national average.

The Hospital Guide also criticised the already under-fire Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which had the highest mortality rate in England - 31% above the national average.

The south Essex trust was one of 12 hospitals in England to be given the lowest rating with concerns about patient safety and a higher than expected rate of patients dying from low-mortality conditions such as asthma and appendicitis.

Last night the Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust hit back at the report pointing out it was second best out of five trusts in Essex and ahead of 49 in total country-wide.

Andrew May, medical director of Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, said the report did not reflect the “significant progress” made over the past 12 months.

“Towards the end of 2008 our board identified a deterioration in the trust's mortality rates and subsequently tasked the medical director with investigating and then implementing service and practice changes to bring about an improvement.

“The impact of this work is reflected in our more up-to-date mortality rates data. This is 90.2 for April to July 2009, compared with 121.2 for the same period last year.”

He also said the trust had insufficient time to submit its work for the Dr Foster review and therefore the new data didn't reflect the true rates.

“We undertook an extensive case note review programme and found that inaccurate clinical coding had impacted adversely on our mortality rates. Some of these case notes were therefore recoded correctly but there was insufficient time to complete this work before the deadline for submission to Dr Foster for the 2008/09 mortality rates. This corrective process is not accurately reflected in the data published today.”

Commenting on the findings of the Hospital Guide on East of England hospitals, Roger Taylor, Director and co-founder of Dr Foster, said: “Over the last nine years of the Hospital Guide we have seen a steady improvement in hospital performance but unacceptable variations between hospitals still exists. Dr Foster will continue to publish data in order to provide information to the public, drive improvement in patient care and save lives.

“Hospital trusts should use the guide to carefully investigate where problems exist, even those who have performed well. Patients and the public should use the Hospital Guide to help make choices about where they want to be treated, to ask the right questions of their health professionals and to hold hospitals to account.”