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Wednesday, 16 April 2014

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Hospital death rates are falling

DEATH rates at the struggling West Cumberland Hospital are starting to improve.

This time last year, North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust was named as one of a handful being investigated by the Government due to worrying death rates.

But this week the trust’s chief executive Ann Farrar said mortality at the Whitehaven hospital, as well as Carlisle’s Cumberland Infirmary, is now far closer to the national average.

Previously, the Keogh inspection team had carried out unannounced visits at both of the hospitals, which flagged up serious concerns about care. As a result the trust was put into “special measures”, meaning it must make major changes and is under regular review.

But Mrs Farrar said that although there is still a lot of work to do to get the trust the all-clear, there has been significant progress on death rates.

A figure of 100 is used to indicate the expected number of deaths within a trust. The North Cumbrian trust, which at its worst point had a score of 118, has now seen mortality reduce to a figure of 103.

Mrs Farrar described the newly-published statistics as “refreshing”.

“It is well in the pack and clearly a lot closer to the 100. We now need to keep going towards that,” she added.

There has also been progress in another key area – hospital infections. Superbug Clostridium difficile and its link to deaths within the trust were a major concern for inspectors. But latest figures show that cases are dropping.

Mrs Farrar said: “It is not just better than our target, we are now better than the national average. That is very reassuring and gives us a great deal of confidence.” In total there have been 19 cases of C dif this year, against a maximum target of 29. In Whitehaven it is six months since they had a case.

Bosses stress that every case they have is fully investigated to see if it could have been prevented. As a result cases are now steadily dropping.

Other measures being taken to remove the trust from special measures include strengthening leadership within the trust, increasing the reporting of patient safety incidents and demonstrating action has been taken, tackling complaints openly and improving financial performance.

It must also make significant improvements on waiting times.

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