Trust defends mortality rate

THE alarming number of deaths at Eastbourne’s hospital are a matter of interpretation, according to the trust which oversees it.

The East Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust says the 10 per cent higher than expected mortality rate, published in the Dr Foster report last month, is artificially inflated by administration quirks.

Each patient is coded according to the ailment they complain of on arrival, but this does not account for other long-term illnesses which they might also be suffering from.

Trust board member and medical director Dr David Hughes said, “I would not necessarily say there is a problem or discrepancy with the Dr Foster report.

“The issue with us is more how you interpret it.

“It’s not actually a direct measure of mortality.

“If we look at the raw mortality it’s going down year-on-year for our trust.

“Dr Foster has not found any care issues, but has discovered we have not been coding people correctly. That’s important in the sense that if someone comes in with abdominal pains you would not expect them to die but if you had mentioned they had a very late-stage cancer we might well expect them to die.

“The issue for us now is this. We have a coding department which is highly trained and does what it can, but how can we make it easier for them?

“What we have not been putting in is other illnesses and problems which the patient may be suffering from. If you put those in that will alter the weighting given to Dr Foster.”

Although the trust says the report does not reveal any gaps in its quality of care, Dr Hughes says the criticisms will not be taken lightly.

“We must not turn our back on it. That’s the sort of thing highlighted by the Dr Foster report about other hospitals if they just ignore data put to them. It’s been a very useful thing to highlight areas where we might improve. For instance we will set up a group to ensure we are actually focusing on any issues the Dr Foster report flags up,” said Dr Hughes.