NHS staff shortages leading to lost lives

Eight hospitals have been named for having comparatively high death rates-  leading to claims that staff shortages are costing lives.NHS staff shortages leading to lost livesNew NHS figures show that “higher than expected” death rates have continued for two years at the hospitals-  which serve millions of people.

Jeremy Hunt, the Health Secretary, has ordered the boards of hospital trusts to “take action” to remedy the situation.

The figures were published ahead of the official inquiry into Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, where an estimated 1,200 patients died because of “appalling” care and neglect betweeen 2005 and 2009.

According to the figures, published by the NHS’s Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), for the past two years mortality rates at hospitals in Colchester, Tameside, Blackpool, East Lancashire and Basildon and Thurrock thave been “persistently” high.

All five trusts have been ordered to improve matters in the last two years by the Care Quality Commission, the watchdog.

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust in Essex is already under scrutiny after a number of “serious incidents”, including the death of a 10-year-old girl with epilepsy who did not receive medicine she needed.

Doctors are increasingly concerned that already overstretched staff are having to cope with growing numbers of elderly patients suffering from more than one health problem.

Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said trust boards must “immediately” start asking ”difficult questions”.

She continued: “We have far too many reports of this depressing nature published, yet no one is asking the difficult questions.  If poor practice appears to be left unchallenged, it is obviously going to continue.”

Mr Hunt said: “I expect trusts to examine this data carefully and take action to investigate if necessary and ensure they are providing safe, high quality care.”

He continued: “Where Trusts have a higher than expected ratio, the Department will work with Strategic Health Authorities to investigate the underlying reasons for this and ensure that firm action is taken.”

Experts have previously cautioned that the mortality figures are not the only measure of hospital care. Sir Bruce Keogh, the medical director of the NHS, has likened them to a “smoke alarm”.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of the HSCIC, said that higher than expected death rates “should be seen as an early warning mechanism, rather than a definitive judgement”.

He said the “vast majority” of trusts – 126 of 142 – “have a mortality ratio that is as expected, based on the characteristics of the patients they will typically treat”.

Trusts said they were working to lower death rates and that, in some cases, they have already started to fall.


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