Skip to main content

NHS: Death Rate

Volume 490: debated on Monday 30 March 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health with reference to page 3 of the Healthcare Commission’s report on the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, how many alerts regarding mortality the Healthcare Commission has received in respect of each NHS organisation in each of the last five years; which alerts it followed up with the relevant trust in each year; in which such cases it decided that no further action was needed; and for what reason no further action was taken in each such case. (267703)

We understand from the chairman of the Healthcare Commission that its system for identifying and following up ‘alerts’ about apparently high mortality rates has been in operation for less than two years. Details of the methodology used and number of alerts followed up in the first year of operation (August 2007 to July 2008), but not of the trusts concerned, are set out in the commission’s report “Following up mortality outliers”, which is published on the commission’s website at:

www.healthcarecommission.org.uk/publicationslibrary.cfm ?fde_id=10285

85 ‘alerts’ were considered in the first year. After statistical analysis, 43 were not pursued with the trusts concerned. The commission pursued the remaining 42 with the trusts until it confirmed it was satisfied with the explanation for the apparently high rates and with actions being taken. When pursuing alerts with trusts the commission looks for:

evidence that the trust has given serious consideration to the commission’s questions and has addressed all of the matters raised;

robust evidence in support of the trust’s arguments;

an indication of whether the trust was already aware of the issue and was already taking some form of action;

evidence that the trust is making reasonable clinical judgments; and

assurance that the trust is monitoring its own rates of mortality and is undertaking reviews where necessary.

The chairman of the Healthcare Commission has commented that each ‘alert’ relates to mortality rates for a specific diagnosis or condition rather than to an overall trust-wide or hospital-wide mortality rate.