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High mortality rates to be investigated

01/12/11: The increase in patient deaths in a region’s hospitals is being investigated by leading health chiefs.

It was revealed that there was an increase of more than 400 deaths in the Castle Hill Hospital and Hull Royal Infirmary compared to the year before.

The Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust will be carrying out the review. It has prompted a number of new measures from the chief executive Phil Morley which include; drafting in national experts, monitoring patient care, and investigating every death, no matter the circumstances.

The number of patients which died at both hospitals between April 2010 and March 2011 was 2,599 according to the figures released by the trust. This marks an increase of 407 over the previous 12 months.

It should be noted that there was an increase of 6,000 additional patients, but the numbers of deaths are still up by 18.6 percent compared with only a 3.5 percent patient increase.

The increase in deaths are being said to be due to more patients with serious conditions being admitted, but a major review is still being carried out regardless.

Phil Morley commented that his concern is to investigate every death in the hope that both hospitals could improve patient care in relevant areas. He also revealed that the mortality ratio in some areas was higher than it should be.

These figures were released as a result of a report which is due to be published by the healthcare information provider Dr. Foster. The report is rumoured to highlight the trust as one of the worst in the country for death rates, as well as predicting an additional 18 percent increase in deaths.

The trust responded that Dr. Foster’s methods took into account more factors than the trust’s figures did, such as age, diagnosis, and reasoning, in addition to planned trips and emergency trips.

Dr. Foster’s report is said to include both the actual numbers and predicted numbers of overall patient deaths.

In response Mr. Morley said that he understood if people were afraid of coming to one of these hospitals, but his immediate reaction was said to be disappointment as the figures do not show the improvements the hospitals have made.

He also criticised the report’s figures as not being relevant to the population they serve since Hull has an above average rate of smokers, alcoholics, and patients with heart problems. Further concerns were raised by Mr. Morley that the upcoming report would paint an inaccurate picture of the deprivation within Hull.

The Queen’s Centre for Oncology and Haematology at Castle Hill Hospital was also highlighted as something which would significantly reduce the trust’s mortality rates if it was excluded. For 2010-11, the number of deaths from cancer was 654 out of the total of 2,599.

Defending the trust, Mr. Morley reasoned that two large wards were present for patients who wanted to die at the hospital and they were available for them.

Mr. Morley said he was confident that if cancer deaths from the Queen’s Centre were excluded then the mortality rates would be no higher than at any other trust.

It was also revealed that the trust also accepted high-risk patients which other trusts would not accept. Patients go to that trust as a last resort because no other trust will accept them, and that is what impacts the figures according to Mr. Morley.