UK hospitals in special measures over death rates

PHOTO: UK hospitals in special measures over death rates

UNITED KINGDOM - Eleven hospital trusts in England will be put into "special measures" following an investigation into high death rates, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced Tuesday.

Failure or mediocrity was "deeply entrenched" at some of the 14 trusts which had faced review due to consistently high death rates in 2011 and 2012, Hunt told MPs.

NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh was asked to carry out the review after a public inquiry into serious systematic failings at Stafford Hospital.

"No statistics are perfect, but mortality rates suggest that since 2005, thousands more people may have died than would normally be expected at the 14 trusts reviewed by Sir Bruce," Hunt told MPs.

He said the report revealed some "very concerning examples of poor practice", including patients being left unmonitored on trolleys for long periods and staff working 12 days in a row without a break.

The report criticised a lack of openness, poor governance, and unwillingness to learn from mistakes at many of the trusts.

In some cases, trust boards were "shockingly unaware" of the problems uncovered by review teams, said Hunt.

He blamed Labour, who were voted out of office in 2010, for the high mortality rates, calling the report the party's "darkest moment".

In a war of words in the House of Commons, shadow health secretary Andy Burnham hit back, accusing Hunt of "playing politics with people's lives".

"This report is about your government and failings happening now on this government's watch," said Burnham.

Hospitals in special measures will be required to enact the review's recommendations, with their progress tracked, while the remaining three must undertake a strict improvement plan.

"Not one of these trusts has been given a clean bill of health by my review teams," said Keogh.

"Mediocrity is simply not good enough and, based on the findings from this review I have set out an achievable ambition which will help these hospitals improve dramatically over the next two years," he added.

Speaking during a visit to Lincoln, Prime Minister David Cameron recognised the problems but insisted the NHS was "completely safe" in the coalition government's hands.

"I think everyone can have confidence in the NHS and everyone can have confidence that their local hospital either is a good hospital or is being turned around and being made into a good hospital," he said.

The 11 hospital trusts put in special measures are: North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust; Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust; United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust; Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust; George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire; Sherwood Forest Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust; Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust, and Medway NHS Foundation Trust.

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