A hospital chief executive has stepped aside after an investigation revealed an unusually high number of deaths were classified as due to septicaemia.

Dr Jackie Bene, who was appointed acting chief executive of Bolton NHS Foundation Trust, agreed to the move while inquiries are carried out.

Septicaemia, a severe infection of the blood stream than can lead to death, is coded in a different way from other illnesses so that deaths from the condition do not affect a hospital's mortality rate.

As the former medical director of the hospital, Dr Bene was in charge of recording the information.

In a statement the Trust said early information from an audit had revealed 50 cases in which there were “potential discrepancies” in the way deaths had been coded. An independent team is to be brought in to look at coding practices.

 The trust said there were no concerns about the care of patients but the audit had raised questions about “how the trust reports information for administrative and financial purposes.”

A high mortality rates is an indication of quality of care and can trigger  an inspection by the Care Quality Commission, the NHS regulator. Fourteen hospitals which have had high mortality rates two years running are currently being investigated following publication of the Francis inquiry into the scandal at the Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.