More than 3,000 people may have died unnecessarily at five NHS trusts in a crisis that could dwarf the horrors at Mid Staffordshire, which were detailed in a devastating report published yesterday.An investigation began on Wednesday night into excessive mortality rates at the five trusts – the same warning sign that exposed the needless deaths of up to 1,200 patients at Mid Staffs.
The trusts in Lancashire, Essex and Greater Manchester have been “outliers” on an index of expected death rates for two successive years to 2012.
Within hours of the publication of a report which described the “disaster” at Mid Staffs as the worst scandal in the history of the NHS, the Department of Health released figures which raise the possibility that the “appalling” lack of care may still be going on at hospitals around the country.
Between July 2010 and June 2012, a total of 3,063 deaths were recorded at the five trusts, which comprise eight district general hospitals, over and above what would be expected. The worst figures were recorded at Blackpool Teaching Hospitals, where there were 879 excessive deaths. East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, which has premises in Blackburn and Burnley, had 618; Colchester Hospital University Trust in Essex had 599; Basildon and Thurrock, also in Essex, had 508 and Tameside, near Manchester, 459.
Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS Commissioning Board, will be in charge of the investigation in the five areas, where patients and their families have been warning for years that care was inadequate.
The figures piled more pressure on Sir David Nicholson, the chief executive of the NHS, who was already facing demands to resign over his failure to root out the problems at Mid Staffs.
Professor Sir Brian Jarman, an international authority on hospital performance, said he warned the Government in early 2010 about high death rates at four of the hospitals now under investigation. Sir Brian, a former president of the British Medical Association, said problems in the NHS have been ignored for too long and called for Sir David to step down.
“I think he should go,” he said. “The Francis Report [into Mid Staffs] is very good but the difficulty is the same people are running the NHS and the mechanism of denial is continuing.” Earlier, Robert Francis QC published his findings following a 31-month public inquiry into deaths at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, in which he catalogued the “harrowing” experiences of patients at Stafford Hospital.
The report says there was “a failure of the NHS system at every level” to detect problems and take action. Despite between 400 and 1,200 people dying needlessly, and despite five investigations including Mr Francis’s £13 million public inquiry, not one person has been sacked or struck off.
Mr Francis said conditions of “appalling care” flourished because managers “put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety”. He said patients were “let down” by a “lack of care, compassion, humanity and leadership”, with patients having to relieve themselves in their beds because no one would take them to the lavatory, others drinking water from vases because they were not given drinks and “callous indifference” to their suffering by ward staff. Staff who tried to raise concerns were ignored, bullied or intimidated, and watchdog bodies failed to react to repeated warnings.