The true scale of the thousands of needless deaths in NHS hospitals is to be laid bare on Tuesday, with a new report detailing the poor care, medical errors and management blunders in 14 of the worst hospital trusts.
NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is expected to suggest that the Stafford hospital scandal was not a one-off, and that there may have been 13,000 needless deaths across the 14 trusts since 2005.
The Prime Minister's official spokesman has indicated that hospital board members could be suspended following care failings.
"Clearly there have been examples where patients and families have not received the high quality, compassionate care that it so important," David Cameron's spokesman said.
"The Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, and all the Government are deeply, deeply concerned at the evidence of failings in the NHS.
"It is important to have undergone the review to get to the bottom of where failings may be occurring. What people can be very clear about is the Government's commitment to that culture of compassion and high quality care.
"The Government will continue to take the action that is necessary.
"I think it is important that we have a culture of accountability in our public services, very much including the NHS.
"One of the things the Prime Minister said in response to the Francis Inquiry is that a single failure regime would be set up whereby the suspensions of boards can be triggered by failures in care."
As part of the Government's response to the Francis report into serious care failings at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, ministers said that if a hospital is deemed to be failing, the Chief Inspector of Hospitals could initiate a failure regime in which the board could be suspended or the hospital put into administration.
Following the publication of the report of the public inquiry into failings at Mid Staffordshire, Sir Bruce launched an investigation into the 14 other trusts because of their high mortality rates.
Nine of the trusts have been ''outliers'' on the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) for two years running and the other five were identified by the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) as having higher than expected death rates.
The latest SHMI data, published in April, in which the number of patients who died following admission to hospital is compared with the number who would be expected to die, suggests that as many as 3,000 people may have died needlessly in just one year at the 14 trusts.
Researchers said that death rates were deemed to be "higher than expected" at eight of the trusts and "as expected" at the other six of the trusts.
The trusts which have been under review are:
- Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
- Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
- Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust,
- Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
- Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust,
- The Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust,
- East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust,
- George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust,
- Medway NHS Foundation Trust,
- North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust,
- Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
- Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust,
- Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust
- United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust.
Reports suggest Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will send "hit squads" into 10 of the trusts.
The teams of experts will be sent to turn around hospitals which are failing critically ill patients, the Daily Telegraph said.
Professor Sir Brian Jarman, one of Sir Bruce's advisers, said that in some cases the high death rates stretched back to 2005.
The mortality data expert told the newspaper that he warned health officials over the course of a decade about the high death rates but was not listened to.
"We felt we were banging against a locked door," he said.
Tories are likely to seize on the findings of the Keogh review to attack Labour's handling of the health service. Shadow health secretary Andy Burnham was in charge of the NHS between June 2009 and May 2010.
But Labour leader Ed Miliband yesterday said he was "proud" of his party's health record in government.
Pressed on the role of the then health secretary, he said: "I think that's what you get from this Government, which is that they are wanting to politicise some of the problems there have been in the NHS.
"Now, we were very vigilant about dealing with those problems and I am very proud of Labour's record on the NHS."
Professor John Ashton, president of the Faculty of Public Health, called for epidemiologists to be based in every hospital to monitor outcomes as he criticised an "obsession" with targets.
"We have actually had 30 years of an obsession with the financial side of the hospitals and with targets," he told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme.
"We've had all of that and then this build-up to privatising the health service and there hasn't been the investment in data that was about clinical outcomes. There aren't epidemiologists in every hospital, which is what we need."
He added: "We now seem to be in the middle of a massive political game between the parties, and the public have been excluded from this. Instead of having the public at the centre, the political opinion polls are at the centre."
TAMESIDE GENERAL HOSPITAL
One of the hospitals braced for tough criticism is Tameside General Hospital in Greater Manchester
The hospital is described as having "suboptimal standards of care across the organisation", according to the report obtained by Sky News.
It is said to have had "poor supervision of junior doctors by consultants" and "insufficient nurse staffing levels on the wards", the broadcaster said.
The report is also expected to criticise patient care at the hospital which it found to have had "insufficient critical care beds" meaning patients were being treated in inappropriate areas.
The response to patient complaints is described as "slow and lacking in compassion", according to Sky News.
One patient with the highly contagious C. difficile was put on a bay with six other patients putting them at risk of potentially fatal infection.
Another patient with an allergy to penicillin had warned staff but was still given the drug.
In another case a patient with faecal incontinence had to be cleaned up by relatives as staff were too busy.
Patient safety charity, Action against Medical Accidents said that the investigations are "welcome but overdue".
Chief executive Peter Walsh said: "The problems at these trusts were known to the authorities well before any decision to look into them. What patients most want to know are answers to some key questions. Are these hospitals safe now?
"Is the regulatory system now robust enough to detect problems when they arise and intervene quickly to protect patients? Will those responsible for allowing these avoidable deaths to go on be held to account?
"The investigation into trusts with high mortality rates was announced on the very day that the report into Mid Staffordshire was published.
"The high mortality rates had been known about for years previously and some of the trusts also had other indicators suggesting problems with patient safety.
"For example, Tameside had failed to implement large numbers of patient safety alerts at the same time as it had high mortality rates. We need a regulator who will investigate when there is one serious indication of a problem, let alone several".
Jason Suckley, director of policy and campaigns at care charity Sue Ryder, added: "Findings in Sir Bruce Keogh's report of hospital performance unfortunately highlight that the shocking and poor care at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust hospital were not isolated cases.
"After 65 years of the NHS, it is disgraceful and unacceptable that people, and their families, do not receive the care they need, and deserve."
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