UK & World News

  • 14 July 2013, 20:37

'Up To 13,000 Needless Deaths' In NHS Hospitals

Up to 13,000 people may have died needlessly in NHS hospitals since 2005, according to a report to be published in the coming days.

Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, the NHS's medical director, will expose failings in 14 of the worst trusts in England.

He was commissioned by the Government to look into hospitals with high mortality rates after the scandal at Stafford Hospital.

The report, to be released on Tuesday, will criticise care standards and management failures, fuelling concerns about a problem with the NHS's culture where whistleblowers are afraid to speak out and regulators often fail to do their job.

It is expected to confirm fears that the 1,400 excess deaths at Mid Staffs were not a one-off.

The findings have prompted a political row with the Conservatives accusing current Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham of shouldering some of the responsibility.

One of the 14 trusts investigated, Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation trust, had 1,600 more deaths than would have been expected in seven years, according to The Sunday Telegraph.

At Tameside - which is around half the size of Basildon - there were more than 830 excess deaths.

The study goes back before the Conservative government took over power from Labour. Andy Burnham was Labour's last Health Secretary from June 2009 until May 2010.

A source close to the Health Secretary told Sky News that Jeremy Hunt is likely to put several hospitals on special measures as a consequence of Sir Bruce's report and warning signs being missed over many years.

The Conservatives are seizing on the study to attack Mr Burnham, who was forced to defend his actions on Sky News' Murnaghan programme on Sunday.

It came after one of the contributors to the report, Professor Sir Brian Jarman, told Sky News that part of the blame resided with the last government.

Mr Burnham is expected to come under increasing pressure as the week goes on, despite the fact that he was just one of several health secretaries under Labour.

The report was commissioned in February by the Prime Minister after the results of the inquiry by Robert Francis QC into how the NHS failed to stop the Stafford hospital scandal happening.

The inquiry exposed appalling lapses in both the care of patients and the regulation of hospitals.

The 14 hospital trusts with the worse mortality rates over the last two years are Basildon and Thurrock, in Essex; United Lincolnshire; Blackpool, Lancs; The Dudley Group, West Midlands; George Eliot, Warwickshire; Northern Lincolnshire and Goole; Tameside, Greater Manchester; Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire; Colchester, Essex; Medway, Kent; Burton, Staffordshire; North Cumbria; East Lancashire; and Buckinghamshire Healthcare.

Sir Bruce examined not just mortality rates, but measurements including infection levels, the number of patients suffering from preventable and potentially fatal signs of neglect, and the numbers harmed by so-called "never events" such as operations on the wrong part of the body, or surgical instruments left inside a patient.

A Department of Health spokeswoman said: "We are not prepared to speculate about the contents of Sir Bruce's review, or our response to it. We've shown consistently that we expect the NHS to be accountable where things go wrong.

"That is why the Prime Minister ordered an investigation to get to the bottom of these issues."

Mr Burnham told Sky News' Murnaghan programme he would account for all decisions he made in office and defended his record.

The shadow health secretary said he had warned about a number of hospitals when he left office but that several of the hospitals involved had deteriorated since the coalition took over.

He said: "I will account for all of the things I did as secretary of state. I took actions to reveal what happened at Stafford, I took actions at Basildon, at Tameside, I left warnings in place on five hospitals.

"The Conservative Party briefed this week they were wanting to target me personally. That is what they are wanting to do."

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