Government ignored warnings on hospital death rates that could have saved 20,000 lives, says top health adviser

 

Government ministers and the NHS ignored warnings about persistently high death rates in hospitals which could have claimed the lives of up to 20,000 patients, a top health adviser has said.

Professor Sir Brian Jarman, who co-founded the health statistics and research service Doctor Foster, said he had sent the then health secretary Andy Burnham a list of hospitals with higher-than-average death rates in 2010, but no action was taken.

Several of those hospitals are now the subject of a Government review into their high mortality ratios.

Mr Burnham has rejected Sir Brian's claims that his warnings were ignored and said he did act to uncover failings in care.

Sir Brian's comments come after the publication of the highly critical Francis report into poor care at Stafford Hospital which identified "failings" across the NHS and recommended reforms of the health system.

Sir Brian said statistics showed that for a decade four hospitals had Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios (HSMR) - which gives a figure for whether death rates are higher or lower than would be normally expected - which were "continuously very high".

He sent an email about those findings to Mr Burnham, who responded saying by passing that information to the hospitals' watchdog the Care and Quality Commission (CQC), but they took no action.

Mr Burnham said he acted "firmly and immediately" by referring the data to CQC, and by later commissioning the first inquiry carried out by Robert Francis QC into Stafford Hospital, in 2010, which uncovered "shocking" levels of care.

Sir Brian, a former president of the British Medical Association, is working on a Government review of 14 hospitals where mortality rates have been persistently higher than the national average.

Speaking on BBC's Today programme on Radio 4, he said: "For the last 10 years there were about four (hospitals) who have had continuously very high adjusted death rates.

"Actually I sent to the Secretary of State in March 2010, Andy Burnham, a list of hospitals which had high mortality rates and there are seven of the ones on the list that have just been mentioned."

Mr Burnham replied to him but said the CQC "did not find that there was anything to worry them".

"I think that it's a pity they didn't because you have seen at Mid Staffs and we've seen at other hospitals that when they have actually gone in and looked they have been able to reduce the death rates.

"We are talking about people dying there."

Sir Brian said, referring to data from the 14 hospital trusts identified as having high HSMRs, that "observed deaths exceeds the number they were expected to have by the national average".

He estimated the deaths at these trusts alone could have amounted to "a bit over 20,000".

Sir Brian added: "That's only looking at 14 of the 140 trusts - there are likely to be other trusts where they have numbers that exceed the national value.

"I think there must be at least tens of thousands of avoidable deaths in those hospitals alone, when we should have been going in and we should have been looking at them."

Mr Burnham, who was Health Secretary in the former Labour Government, told the Today programme: "I have great respect for the work carried out by Sir Brian but the claim that ministers and civil servants ignored his warnings are not true."

He rejected claims he was complacent at the time, adding he invited Sir Brian onto a working party following the publication of the first Francis report.

Mr Burnham said during that period HSMR data was "new" and "the Government could not put it's full weight behind it".

He defended not launching a full public inquiry during the first investigation in 2010, saying: "I wanted to get to the truth but at the same time we had a responsibility to help the hospital - that's why I brought in Robert Francis QC."

"I made the best judgments I could make at the time.

"When we came into power people in the NHS were dying while still on waiting lists to get into hospital, and now the NHS has the lowest waiting lists and the highest public satisfaction ratings."

Asked if he thought the NHS' chief executive Sir David Nicholson should stay in his post following the failings identified at Stafford Hospital, he said: "Yes he should, because the NHS needs stability in a period of huge change and at a time of huge financial upheaval."

Last month's publication of the Francis inquiry into failings at Stafford Hospital showed there were up to 1,200 excess deaths between 2005 and 2009.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
News
peopleLiam Williams posted photo of himself dressed as Wilfried Bony
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Arts and Entertainment
The Apprentice finalists Mark Wright and Bianca Miller
tvBut who should win The Apprentice?
News
The monkey made several attempts to revive his friend before he regained consciousness
video
Extras
indybest
News
Elton John and David Furnish will marry on 21 December 2014
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
Sport
Brendan Rodgers looks on from the touchline
SPORT
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: National Account Manager / Key Account Sales

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for a...

    Recruitment Genius: Operations Manager

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join...

    Recruitment Genius: Recruitment Consultant

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We have an excellent role for a...

    Recruitment Genius: IT Support Analyst - Bristol

    Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An IT Support Analyst is required to join the ...

    Day In a Page

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
    Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

    Marian Keyes

    The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

    Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

    Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
    Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

    Rodgers fights for his reputation

    Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
    Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

    Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

    'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
    Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick