Hospitals 'Covering Up Death Stats'

A New Report Has Claimed Hospitals Might Be Covering Up Death Statistics


Dr Foster, a leading health intelligence company, has claimed that hospitals across the UK may be covering up death statistics.

Figures released by the organisation show that the number of people recorded as needing "palliative care" in the UK has dramatically risen.

Dr Foster believes this may be due to this category of patients being exempt from normal mortality rates, meaning that NHS trusts benefit from moving people into palliative care, even if they have a chance of survival.

Some hospitals currently have more than 35 per cent of mortalities recorded under palliative records, which experts believe is a result of "fiddling" with statistics, reports MSN.

East and North Hertfordshire NHS Trust - for example - had 785 deaths, or 43.18 per cent, coded as palliative in 2012. This is a steep rise from 2008, when just 9.92 per cent of mortality rates were categorised in this manner.

King's College Hospital NHS Foundation Trust saw a similar rise - up from 8.71 per cent to 38.41 over the four-year period.

Joyce Robins, from Patient Concerns, said she was "frightened" about the statistics and said that the NHS's pledge to improve its transparency and get rid of red tape was "just talk".

Roger Taylor, director of research at Dr Foster, also outlined his concern over the findings.

"The rules are too vague. Poor quality data is harming patients because you can't see where things are going wrong and you can't see where there are issues," he explained.

"If the data is not being recorded consistently and, moreover, if that isn't picked up because of a lack of auditing, there is a risk that poor patient care is being disguised and the public misled."

While the potential recoding of dying patients might not directly affect patient care, in the past there has been shown to be strong correlation between misconduct at NHS trusts and the fiddling of statistics.

At the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, poorly recorded statistics were the first sign of wrongdoing among Stafford Hospital bosses.

Expert Opinion
This data is particularly concerning because it shares similarities with the findings of the Public Inquiry into Stafford Hospital which saw hundreds of people being subjected to poor care because staff were too focused on targets.

“The core value of the NHS must be patient safety - not making statistics look favourable - and we are concerned that this value is being lost.

“We hope that the Chief Inspector of Hospitals and CQC will thoroughly investigate the auditing process each Trust has in place to ensure failings cannot be disguised or watered down by inaccurate death statistics.
“The NHS must be transparent in the standard of care it provides so any issues can be identified and improved to keep patients safe.”
Julie Lewis, Partner