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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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Inquiry into north Cumbria hospitals trust's death rates

An immediate Government review has been ordered into shocking death rates at north Cumbria’s hospitals.

Cumberland Infirmary photo
Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary

The man in charge of the NHS will examine the reasons behind the persistently high mortality figures at Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary and Whitehaven’s West Cumberland Hospital.

The review, announced yesterday (Monday) afternoon, was the latest revelation in the wake of last week’s damning Francis Inquiry, which raised fears that basic clinical failings could be putting patients at risk across the NHS.

In the immediate aftermath, Prime Minister David Cameron announced an initial investigation into five hospital trusts with persistently high death rates on the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator.

Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, has now announced a further nine organisations which have been ‘outliers’ for two years on the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio.

The only trust in the north west among those is the north Cumbria trust.

These figures were highlighted in December in the annual Dr Foster report but the region’s MPs and a nursing union claim the issues have been emerging for some time.

Glenn Turp, regional director for the Royal College of Nursing, said they had raised concerns about patient experience, management, staffing and inadequate funding at the hospital trust for “a number of years”.

He criticised the previous management for being “unwilling to take action” and said they had raised concerns with the North West Strategic Health Authority, the Overview and Scrutiny Committee and the Care Quality Commission.

“The initial undertakings we have received from the new trust management indicate that the new management team appear to have a better understanding of the challenges still facing the trust and the measures that need to be put in place to deliver a safe, high-quality health service for the people of Cumbria,” he said. “The proof, however, will be in whether they deliver. The people of Cumbria deserve nothing less.”

Jamie Reed, MP for Copeland and Shadow Health Minister, said: “I am not surprised by this move and I informed the trust last week that I expected this to happen. What happened was very publicly known before last week’s report.

“I raised concerns in public with the previous chief executive of the trust last year, with regard to what we already knew about Mid-Staffs and was told these concerns were unfounded.

“Staff and patients knew at the time that this was a nonsensical reassurance.”

Carlisle MP John Stevenson said: “It builds on the figures and facts we’ve had about the hospital over the last two-and-a-half years since I have been elected.”

Tony Cunningham, Workington’s MP, added: “For the Government to get involved and an inquiry to take place is an incredibly serious situation.”

Ann Farrar, interim chief executive for the north Cumbria trust, said: “We welcome this afternoon’s announcement by Sir Bruce to appoint a Rapid Response Review Team to assure patients that the hospitals with higher than expected mortality rates understand the problem and have the right support to improve.

Providing high-quality, compassionate and person-centred healthcare is our number one priority.

“Our focus for the future is to deliver this day in, day out – our aim is to be the best and provide an outstanding service for the people we serve in north Cumbria.”

Mrs Farrar reassured residents that the trust had now adopted an “open and transparent” approach and put in place a comprehensive improvement plan.

“This will take time,” she added. “Our doctors and nurses are leading this improvement and we will be reporting progress at our monthly public trust board meetings. The North West quality team (AQUA) has reviewed and approved this plan.”

Sir Bruce Keogh said: “These hospitals are already working closely with a range of regulators. If there were concerns that services were unsafe the regulators should have intervened.

“The purpose of my investigation is to assure patients, public and Parliament that these hospitals understand why they have a high mortality and have all the support they need to improve.”

The timescale and terms of reference for the investigation are yet to be announced.

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