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Annual review of 'avoidable deaths'


Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of patient case notes to establish how many cases are avoidable

Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of patient case notes to establish how many cases are avoidable

Jeremy Hunt has ordered a review of patient case notes to establish how many cases are avoidable

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has ordered an annual review of "avoidable deaths", which he described as the "biggest scandal in global healthcare".

The yearly study of about 2,000 patient case notes will see England become the first country in the world to monitor the extent of avoidable deaths, in the hope of cutting the rate.

Mr Hunt warned that 1,000 patients are dying unnecessarily each month in NHS hospitals, and told the Sunday Telegraph the reforms in a bid to improve the safety record in healthcare will be the "most profound change" during his time in charge.

"It is about changing behaviour and the way everyone works in the NHS," he said.

Comparing the attitude to safety in the health service to other industries including airlines where global deaths have fallen from 2,000 in the 1970s to 500 now, Mr Hunt said the key was encouraging staff to raise concerns.

He said: "This is the biggest scandal in global healthcare. Why hasn't the health service adopted the kinds of standards we now take for granted in the airline and nuclear industry?"

This week a report on the treatment of NHS staff who tried to air their care concerns will be published by Sir Robert Francis, who led the a damning report into the Mid Staffs Hospital scandal which found that at least 1,200 patients died because of poor care at the hospital.

A report by healthcare analysts Dr Foster published today has found a "significant reduction" in the overall death rate in 11 NHS trusts that were put into special measures, which have been credited for saving hundreds of lives.

A spokeswoman for the Department of Health said under the annual review announced by Mr Hunt hospitals will be placed into bands depending on the number deaths estimated locally.

"By March 2016, every hospital board will have the first of an annual series of projected avoidable mortality rates to inform and drive local improvement," she said.

"The Health Secretary will require every hospital chairman to write to him upon receipt of their figures each year to update him on how they plan to eradicate avoidable deaths in their organisation."

Mr Hunt said: "I'm determined to go even further in rooting out poor care, and have ordered a national case-note review to work out the percentage of avoidable deaths by hospital.

"I want all hospital boards to have a laser-like focus on eradicating avoidable deaths in their organisation; even one life lost to poor care or safety error is too many."

Hospital mortality rates expert, Professor Nick Black said the review would "provide a basis for stimulating quality improvement in each individual hospital".

Shadow health minister Andrew Gwynne said: "We will look at the detail but from what we have seen this proposed annual review does not appear ambitious enough.

"Labour is looking at whether we can go further and have a mandatory review of case notes for every death in hospital - not just for a sample of cases as Jeremy Hunt proposes.

"But as well as initiatives to measure avoidable harm, we need action to prevent it from happening in the first place. The sad truth is that by turning the NHS upside down with a damaging reorganisation and causing a crisis in A&E, the Tory-led Government is making care problems more likely, not less.

"Labour has committed to recruiting 20,000 more nurses by 2020 and until David Cameron matches these plans, he will not be credible on patient safety."

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