British patients were found to be almost 50 per cent more likely to die from poor care than those in America. Pictured is a tribute wall in memory of patients who have died at Stafford Hospital
Clinical care trails the rest of the Western World, it has emerged
Britons have five times the chance of dying from pneumonia than U.S.
NHS death rates are much higher than many western European countries
By Sophie Borland
Death rates in NHS hospitals are among the highest in the western world, shock figures revealed yesterday.
British patients were found to be almost 50 per cent more likely to die from poor care than those in America.
They have five times the chance of dying from pneumonia and twice the chance of being killed by blood poisoning.
Experts say that, despite recent improvements, NHS death rates still outstrip those in many other European countries.
Figures obtained by Professor Brian Jarman, in an exclusive report for Channel 4 News, show that the death rates in English hospitals last year were 45 per cent higher than in America.
Sir Brian, a globally-recognised expert on hospital performance, also calculated that in 2004 death rates for hospitals in England were 22.5 per cent higher than in six others in the western world including Canada and France.
The latest figures are not yet available although Professor Jarman suspects death rates in England have fallen because care has substantially improved.
‘What I found was that the adjusted death rate in England was about 22 per cent higher than for the average of all the seven countries that I looked at and it was about 58 per cent higher than the best of the countries,’ he said.
An investigation was launched following concerns about high death rates and poor care at the hospital run by Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust
‘I expected us to do well and was very surprised we didn’t do well – but there is no means of denying the results as they are absolutely clear.’
‘We should take notice of it and say there is a problem in the provision of health care in England.’
Earlier this year a report warned that hundreds of patients had died needlessly due to poor care at Mid Staffordshire NHS trust.
But this was not an isolated case and a subsequent review led by the Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS, found that thousands of patients had died unnecessarily at 14 other trusts through neglect.
Ministers have since put 11 of these trusts into special measures including North Cumbria, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole, Tameside and Basildon and Thurrock. Hit squads have been sent in to make urgent improvements.
Yesterday Sir Bruce said he would be holding urgent discussions with other officials about the data.
‘I want our NHS to be based on evidence. I don’t want to disregard stuff that might be inconvenient or embarrassing,’ he said. ‘I want to use this kind of data to help inform how we can improve our NHS.
‘So what we need to do as clinical professionals in our NHS is concentrate on how we can improve that and I will be the first to bring this data to the attention of clinical leaders in this country to see how we can tackle this problem.
‘The fact is we have a health service that is admired around the world, founded on the cradle to grave principle. But the other fact is we still have too many patients dying in our hospitals when their relatives were expecting them to come home.’
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: ‘This Government has shone an unprecedented spotlight on poor care through the Keogh review of 14 hospitals with persistently high rates, and taken tough action to tackle these problems by placing 11 hospitals in special measures.
‘Sadly, warnings about high death rates were ignored too frequently in the past.
‘Following the horrors of Mid Staffordshire, we have established a new rigorous inspection regime led by the Chief Inspector of Hospitals.
‘He will look at mortality data as well as issues of leadership and culture, and we will act quickly where problems are uncovered.’
Figures show that the death rates in English hospitals last year were 45 per cent higher than in America.
Sir Brian pioneered the use of hospital standardised mortality ratios (HSMRs) as a way of measuring whether death rates are higher or lower than expected.
They are adjusted for factors such as age and the severity of the patient’s illness. It was by using HSMRs that Professor Jarman was able to identify the high mortality rates at the Mid Staffs trust.
He said one of the reasons that American hospitals do much better is because staff are actively encouraged to report mistakes – and whistleblowers are not persecuted as they sometimes are in the NHS.
He said: ‘If you go to the States doctors can talk about problems, nurses can raise problems and listen to patient complaints.
Hospitals were urged yesterday to ensure consultants work seven days a week.
The Royal College of Physicians, which issued the call, also wants specialist doctors to travel to see elderly patients on wards.
A patient with several illnesses such as angina, diabetes and dementia often has to travel to clinics dotted around their hospital.
The Royal College also wants a chief of medicine to be appointed in every hospital to oversee the care of the elderly.