Health

Probe into 'high death rate' hospitals extended

Hospital ward
Image caption A total of 14 hospitals in England are being investigated after the reporting into failings at Stafford Hospital

Another nine hospital trusts are to be investigated for high death rates in the wake of the damning report on the NHS over its handling of the Stafford Hospital scandal.

The NHS's system of regulation and monitoring was heavily criticised by the Francis inquiry last week.

It prompted ministers to launch an immediate inquiry into five trusts with high death rates.

Another nine have now been added to that list, bringing the total to 14.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh will lead the investigation after the analysis of data through up the new group.

The nine trusts are: North Cumbria University Hospitals, United Lincolnshire Hospitals, George Eliot Hospital, Buckinghamshire Healthcare, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals, the Dudley Group, Sherwood Forest Hospitals, Medway and Burton Hospitals.

'Rigorous'

Death rates are calculated by looking at the number of people that would be expected to die when taking into account the age and disease profile of the local population.

While not necessarily proof there is a problem, they are a "smoke alarm" suggesting there could be.

It was higher than expected death rates that first alerted inspectors to the failings at Stafford Hospital, where hundreds are thought to have died after receiving poor care.

Last week the public inquiry into the scandal concluded patients had been "betrayed" by a system that put corporate self interest ahead of patient safety.

Sir Bruce said: "The purpose of my investigation is to assure patients, public and Parliament that these hospitals understand why they have a high mortality and have all the support they need to improve.

"This will be a thorough and rigorous process, involving patients, clinicians, regulators and local organisations."

Meanwhile, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has announced he wants to see bureaucracy reduced by a third as part of a drive to free up the NHS to focus on "compassionate care".

He has asked the NHS Confederation to look into the issue and report back to him in the coming months.

"Endless boxes to tick, cumbersome bureaucracy and burdensome regulations are the problem," he added.