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Mortality Indicators

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

9. What recent discussions he has had with officials in his Department on the forthcoming NHS investigation into mortality indicators. (144345)

Ministers have discussed the terms of reference for the review of hospitals that have been highlighted as outliers for the last two consecutive years using nationally published mortality indicators. The terms of reference were published by Professor Sir Bruce Keogh on Friday 15 February.

Just over a year ago, I asked the previous Secretary of State a question about gagging orders and the specific case of Mr Gary Walker, the former chief executive of United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust. In the light of the recent news that our local health trust is now being investigated amid concerns over patient safety, what assurances can the Minister give the House that such Stalinist gagging orders, which have cost the taxpayer £15 million in the past few years, will be outlawed as soon as possible, to ensure that, under this Government, it will not take 81 requests to ensure that patient safety is paramount?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right to highlight the fact that all staff in the NHS should feel able to speak up and raise concerns about patient safety, so that the organisations for which they work can take up their concerns and investigate them. He will be aware that the people who raise such concerns are protected under the Public Interest Disclosure Act 1998.

Last week I visited Salford Royal hospital, which has the lowest death and weekend mortality rates in the north-west, and the seventh lowest in the country. It is interesting to note that Salford also has higher ratios of nurses per in-patient bed, and that individual wards in the hospital publish data on their rates of MRSA, ulcers and falls. Does the Minister accept that good practice at hospitals such as Salford Royal should be investigated alongside the poor practice and high mortality rates in other hospitals?

The hon. Lady is absolutely right. That is exactly what the review is about. It is going into the 14 hospitals in which concern has arisen over mortality data, looking at the practices there and commissioning a peer review of them from leading clinicians and patient groups. That will help to raise standards of practice where required.

In supporting the points that have just been made by my hon. Friend the Member for Lincoln (Karl MᶜCartney), may I tell the Minister that, as he might expect, there is considerable anxiety among my Lincolnshire constituents over the fact that the United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust has a higher than average mortality rate? Will he tell us when the promised review of the situation will begin, and who will be conducting it?

To reassure my right hon. Friend, the review is being carried out and led by Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS medical director. We are already well under way in implementing the review. It should be in place by the very early summer to inform Members of this House and to make improvements to patient care at the local trust level.

People in Dudley were concerned to discover that higher than average mortality rates have led to Russells Hall hospital in my constituency being investigated. I have written to Sir Bruce Keogh to ask whether he or a member of his team will meet me to discuss the inquiry, so that we can find out exactly what has been going on and local people can provide information to it. How does the Minister think that things at the hospital will be improved when nurse numbers in the NHS are being reduced, waiting lists at the hospital have gone up by 177% and the NHS in Dudley has had to spend £20 million on a costly and bureaucratic reorganisation instead of on improving front-line care?

I had thought that the hon. Gentleman had risen on a consensual note, raising his constituents’ concerns—and he was right to do that. The review is about making sure that any failings in care in local trusts are picked up and improved. The fact of the matter is that waiting times are down under this Government in comparison with the previous Government and many more additional clinical staff are working in the NHS—about 2,000 more than under the previous Government. At the same time, we have cut 18,000 administrative and management posts, and the money from that is being reinvested in front-line patient care.

If the hon. Member for Crawley (Henry Smith) wishes to come in on this question, he may, but he is not obliged to do so.