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High death rate at James Paget

PUBLISHED: 09:10 26 March 2010 | UPDATED: 17:11 30 June 2010

Bosses at the James Paget University Hospital have defended themselves after being named as having one of the highest mortality rates in the country.

The Gorleston hospital was one of 25 trusts which a leading professor said should be investigated over a “higher than normal” death rate.

Bosses at the James Paget University Hospital have defended themselves after being named as having one of the highest mortality rates in the country.

The Gorleston hospital was one of 25 trusts which a leading professor said should be investigated over a “higher than normal” death rate.

Professor Brian Jarman, of London's Imperial College School of Medicine said a total of 4,600 more patients had died at those trusts in 2007 to 2008 than would be expected.

But bosses have hit back at the figures saying they are “well within” average mortality rates with these figures being more than two years old.

Hospitals across the UK follow a Dr Foster baseline guide for mortality rates, known as HSMR (hospital standardised mortality ratio), and it is currently 100. The James Paget's rate was 78.8 from April to December 2009.

A spokesman said: “The trust has worked in partnership with Dr Foster for three years and utilised their information to analyse potential concerns where indicated.

“Over this time period the HSMR has greatly reduced. This improvement was clearly stated in the latest Dr Foster Hospital Guide.

“The report highlighted that the trust, along with others, “have improved their figures so much that they are no longer a concern” in relation to HSMR.

“The trust is continuing to work with Dr Foster and the current figure calculated and notified to the trust is below the national average for each month of 2009/10.”

Professor Jarman highlighted concerns at the hospital, saying that when combined with other factors, a high HSMR can indicate broader problems with patient care.

A mortality alert is triggered by higher than expected deaths for a particular procedure.

Prof Jarman said each of the trusts in question had at least 150 more deaths than expected in the year 2007 to 2008.

Across the 25 trusts, there were 4,600 unexpected deaths in total.

He acknowledged there may have been some problems with the way the deaths were recorded, but called on the government to ask the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to investigate each of the trusts rather than relying on their own self-assessments.

In response, health minister Mike O'Brien said: “We'll look at Professor Jarman's letter, but the CQC has conducted a regional review of all the trusts identified as having high mortality ratios.

“It confirmed in January that - at that time - they had no current concerns that they would be as bad as Mid Staffordshire clearly was.”

Last month an independent inquiry into the Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust detailed evidence of systematic failings which caused “unimaginable” patient distress and suffering, despite being rated as a "fair" hospital by the NHS for most of the period in question.

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