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Unusually high death rates at hospitals

PUBLISHED: 10:04 02 December 2008 | UPDATED: 12:25 03 July 2010

Death rates are unusually high at two of Norfolk's hospitals, according to a new report on hospitals across the country.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston appear on a list of 30 hospitals nationwide where death rates are higher than expected.

Death rates are unusually high at two of Norfolk's hospitals, according to a new report on hospitals across the country.

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn and the James Paget University Hospital in Gorleston appear on a list of 30 hospitals nationwide where death rates are higher than expected. Both hospitals say there is no need to be concerned.

The JPH says that the high rate is because it does not have a separate palliative care unit, so that patients who come into the hospital to die are not classified as such by the techniques used to measure death rates. The QEH says the hospital had a bad winter last year, and that it has brought in a patient safety programme to improve things.

The rates are published in Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2008, produced by an independent company that specialises in healthcare information. It adjusts a hospital's death rate according to the type of patients, including their age and type of illness. Once it has been standardised each hospital's expected death rate is expressed as 100 - but at the QEH last year it was 110, while at the JPH it was 115. Both hospitals saw their death rates rise last year - the average for the past three years is 105 at the QEH, and 110 at the JPH.

QEH medical director Geoff Hunnam said last year's figure was “exceptionally high for us”. “As a result we introduced a robust Patient Safety programme. We have also reorganised wards, provided more beds and we are employing more doctors and nurses, all of which is contributing to a significantly improved performance this year.

“In 2007-08 we had a particularly difficult winter with many admissions of elderly patients with complex medical problems.”

Bryan Heap, medical director for NHS Norfolk, said they were working closely with the QEH to address the death rate. “We have put an action plan in place which has been agreed and is being implemented. NHS Norfolk will make a commitment to ensure that we monitor this.”

JPH medical director Wendy Slaney said the hospital had a track record of providing excellent care, and that it was rated excellent by the Healthcare Commission's comprehensive annual health check.

She added: “The analysis undertaken to date clearly indicates that our recording methods have led to a higher than warranted rate for 2007-8. We also know that the hospital provides end-of-life care to a greater extent than many others due to the relatively low level of alternative services currently available locally. We are undertaking further analysis to ensure we have a thorough understanding of the Dr Foster information alongside the patient care reviews that we already carry out.”

The guide also praises Ipswich Hospital for reducing its death rate by more than 30pc in three years. And the JPH is praised for having one of the lowest rates in the country for repeat knee replacements, which suggests they are being done properly the first time.

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