Belfast Telegraph

Friday 31 October 2014

Fiddled death rates claim rejected

An NHS Trust has rejected claims that it fiddled its death rate figures

An NHS Trust has rejected claims that it fiddled its death rate figures, describing the allegations as an "outrageous slur" on its workforce.

The Royal Wolverhampton NHS Trust said independently-verified evidence "categorically disproved" the claims made by one of its own employees, Sandra Haynes-Kirkbright.

Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright, a data recorder who is facing disciplinary action after an investigation into her management practices, told the Daily Mail she was "headhunted" by the Trust and asked to "fix" its mortality figures.

Claiming that "every rule in the book" was broken to try to improve mortality rates, Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright also alleged that she was suspended from her post as a senior "health coder" after refusing to take part in a cover-up.

Responding to the allegations, the Trust's chief executive, David Loughton, said: "We categorically deny all the allegations and have provided detailed evidence to the Daily Mail to support our position that the suggestion of any wrong-doing is simply not true.

"Improvements in the hospital's mortality rates have been audited and independently verified. We are proud of the quality of care we offer and our commitment to putting our patients first at all time. These allegations are an outrageous slur on the hard-working clinical and support staff who provide high quality services to the people of Wolverhampton and surrounding areas."

In a statement addressing each allegation in detail, the Trust said a marked improvement in mortality rates between 2010 and 2012 had been independently verified by the Doctor Foster organisation, which provides information on health and social care services.

The statement said: "The Trust's improvement in (the three different methods of measuring mortality rates) in 2011/12 is as a result of the reduction in the actual number of people that died in the hospital Compared to 2010/11, there were 200 fewer deaths in 2011/12."

Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright was suspended after allegations of bullying, harassment, persistent swearing and unprofessional behaviour were made against her by colleagues through their union in April last year. An investigation into the claims found a case to answer in respect of all allegations raised, and Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright was informed in January that she will face a disciplinary hearing.

In her response to the allegations made against her, submitted in July last year, Mrs Haynes-Kirkbright is known to have raised "coding issues" which were dealt with in a separate investigation under the Trust's whistle-blowing policy. The inquiry, led by the Trust's medical director, concluded in November after finding no evidence to support the allegations raised.

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