Five Hospitals To Be Investigated Over High Death Rates

Five hospital trusts are to be investigated over high death rates following a scathing report which laid bare the "disaster" of Stafford Hospital.

NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh is to launch an immediate investigation into five trusts which had higher-than-average death rates for the last two years.

File image: Nurse attends an elderly person

The news follows the publication of the Francis Report, which highlighted the "appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of patients" at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust between 2005 and 2009.

The hospitals named have reportedly had high death rates for the past two years.

The trusts under investigation are: Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust.

High death rates in themselves don't mean something has gone wrong but they were one of the indicators which triggered the original Stafford Hospital probe.

Prime Minister David Cameron apologised for the "truly dreadful" mistreatment and neglect at the trust.

Speaking in the Commons after the 1,782-page report was released, Mr Cameron announced a raft of changes designed to ensure that any future failures in NHS organisations are detected and dealt with quickly.

He ordered the creation of the post of Chief Inspector of Hospitals, who will have responsibility for a regime of inspections.

Mr Cameron also said changes will be made to the failure regime for NHS trusts, to ensure that the suspension of a board can be triggered by failures in care, and not just financial failings as at present.

Patients and their relatives will be invited to say whether they would recommend treatment at their hospital to their friends and families, and the results will be published, he added.

"I would like to apologise to the families of all those who suffered from the way the system allowed this horrific abuse to go unchecked and unchallenged for so long," Mr Cameron said.

"On behalf of the Government, and indeed our country, I am truly sorry."

Mr Cameron announced that Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will be writing to the bodies responsible for standards of doctors and nurses, to ask why nobody had been struck off as a result of the failings uncovered in Staffordshire.

Julie Bailey of the campaign group 'Cure the NHS', whose mother Bella, 86, died whilst she was a patient at Stafford General Hospital

But Robert Francis QC, chairman of the public inquiry, refused to point the finger at any organisation or individual connected to the shocking failure at the trust, instead blaming an "insidious negative culture".

The families of those who suffered in the care failings called for NHS chief Sir David Nicholson and Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter to resign over the scandal.

Julie Bailey, who set up campaign group Cure The NHS after her mother, Bella Bailey, 86, died at the scandal-hit hospital in 2007, said: "We want resignations, we are going nowhere.

"We have lost hundreds of lives within the NHS, we want accountability."

But Mr Cameron's official spokesman said the Prime Minister had full confidence in Sir David.

Speaking on ITV News, Sir David said: "I am not ashamed of being in my job today.

"Clearly I regret incredibly what happened to those patients, you can only imagine what happened to those patients.

"Clearly it was a whole system failure and we need to reflect on what Francis says - the whole of the NHS, myself, leaders in the NHS doctors and nurses, need to reflect on what we can learn from that to make sure it never happens again."

Cure the NHS campaigner Julie Bailey with others who have lost relatives as she arrives to give evidence to the Public inquiry

Publishing the report, Mr Francis said: "This is a story of appalling and unnecessary suffering of hundreds of people.

"They were failed by a system which ignored the warning signs and put corporate self-interest and cost control ahead of patients and their safety.

"We need a patient-centred culture, no tolerance of non-compliance with fundamental standards, openness and transparency, candour to patients, strong cultural leadership, caring compassionate nursing, and useful and accurate information about services."

He said there was a failure "at every level" to communicate concerns with others and to take sufficient action to protect patient safety.

"In short, the trust that the public should be able to place in the NHS was betrayed," he said.

Mr Francis's 290 wide-ranging recommendations included drawing up a list of "fundamental standards" of patient care. He said that if NHS organisations fail to comply with the standards, they should face closure. And non-compliance which results in death or serious harm of a patient should be a criminal offence.

He said there should be a statutory underpinning of openness, transparency and candour throughout the NHS - including a legal obligation for medics to be truthful to patients and their employers when harm may have been caused.

The public inquiry was ordered after a separate report revealed that between 400 and 1,200 people more people died than expected at Stafford Hospital over a four-year period.

The inquiry, which sat for 139 days, heard from more than 250 witnesses including victims, their family members, patients' groups, charities, medics, politicians, unions and representatives of some of the royal colleges.

Gillian Peacham talks of the treatment her husband, Arthur, 68, had in the months leading up to his death at Stafford Hospital

Mr Francis's first report, drawn from an independent inquiry he chaired between 2009 and 2010, concluded that patients were "routinely neglected" while the trust was preoccupied with cost-cutting and targets.

Concerns have been raised that other organisations may suffer the same fate amid the NHS £20 billion efficiency drive. Indeed cases of poor care standards at the trust are still surfacing.

Lyn Hill-Tout, chief executive at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, said: "We know that we still do not get everything right all of the time and are not complacent and, as Mr Francis has outlined, many important changes are needed in the NHS and particularly personnel and collective responsibility for ensuring safe, good care to our patients."

She apologised for the failure "to keep patients safe", but said Stafford Hospital is now a changed place.

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