NHS Trust defends care after leap in hospital deaths

THE NHS trust which runs the DGH saw 200 more people die in a year than it expected.

East Sussex Healthcare Trust (ESHT) fronts both the hospital here in Eastbourne and its sister site in nearby Hastings and figures released this week show a total of 2,756 patients died across the two centres between April 2010 and March of this year.

Those stats mean that ESHT is one of two in Sussex to feature in a list published by the Department of Health of 36 organisations across the UK to have higher death rates than expected.

Those trusts were picked out using a new data management system which has been adopted by the Government.

It monitors all deaths which happen in hospitals nationwide, including ones which occur within 30 days of discharge.

The team behind the study say that a high death rate could indicate poor levels of care – an accusation the local trust has been quick to counter.

A spokesman for ESHT said, “We are confident there are no major issues with clinical practice at the trust.

“We have undertaken a review of deaths, the methodology and data collection used in compiling this risk rating.

“There has been no evidence of inadequate care causing death.

“However, the clinical coding, the information on which the data is based on, has not accurately reflected the main diagnosis for the patient and, therefore, it is at times misleading.

“Work is underway to improve coding and the information available to the coders and planned improvements include all deaths in low risk groups being reported to ensure the data is verified and a mortality review is undertaken.”

The trust is having a rough time of it at the moment – with staff needing to earmark £20million in savings and campaigners readying themselves to battle rumoured plans to cut maternity services at the DGH.

Just last month more than 100 protesters stood outside the DGH to lobby board members to retain both maternity and full heart care departments on the site.