Call for the NHS to improve accuracy of death records
Dr Foster, healthcare information publisher, has called on the NHS to improve the recording of deaths. In a new report it says it is difficult to distinguish between patients admitted specifically for palliative care and those whose subsequent deterioration in health led to them needing palliative care. Paliative care deaths are not included in the hospital standardised mortality ratio a measure that compares expected and actual death rates in hospitals.
Figures from the report show that deaths reported as palliative increased five fold over a 6 year period between 2007 and 2013. The fear is that hospitals could use this to cover up poor care.
Roger Taylor, Director of Research and Public Affairs at Dr Foster Intelligence said:
'The quality of patient care in our NHS hospitals is largely assessed on the basis of data. If that 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.'
Hospital data expert Professor Sir Brian Jarman said: ‘I am concerned trusts know that increasing their palliative care rates assists their HSMR and am concerned this could be the reason they are doing it. I don’t think these very extreme changes reflect reality.’
Tory MP for Bristol North West Charlotte Leslie, who is a health select committee member, said: ‘This is very worrying data.
We know that at the time of the Mid Staffs scandal, hospitals were fiddling the figures to massage mortality rates. These figures suggest that hospitals are still fiddling the figures, to put their own reputation and that of their managers ahead of patient safety.’