Study showing mortality rates tripled at Lincolnshire hospitals disputed by health trust

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A study claiming unexpected deaths at hospitals in Lincolnshire have tripled to almost 360 a year has been argued as ‘misinterpretation’ by the NHS trust responsible for them.

The study claimed that hundreds more patients died unexpectedly after United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust was put into special measures in 2013.

Under the measure, instigated by NHS England Medical Director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, improvements should have been seen at the hospitals under the trust’s management.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman, co-director of the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College in London is quoted in the Mail Online as discovering that ULHT has much higher death rates in 2015/16 than in 2013/14.

Using a Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI), which reports on the actual number of patients who die following time in hospital and the number expected to die on the basis of average country-wide figures, the study suggested ‘unexpected deaths’ tripled from 129 to 357.

ULHT came out of special measures in March 2015, concluding that improvements under the ‘special measures’ status had been effective.

According to Professor Jarman, problems with unpredicted deaths are ongoing at ULHT and neighbouring North Lincolnshire and Goole NHS Foundation Trust.

Interpretation dispute

When referring to mortality rates, ULHT also records data using the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR), a scoring system which takes a hospital’s crude mortality rate and adjusts it for factors including population size, age and the range of operations and treatment provided.

A ULHT spokesperson said:

“We don’t accept Prof Jarman’s interpretation of our mortality figures.

“It’s important to point out that higher than expected HSMR and SHMI rates don’t necessarily mean that there were unnecessary or avoidable deaths.”

Read more on Lincolnshire Reporter here.