Five hospitals told to take action over death rates

FIVE Scottish hospitals have been ordered to take action after figures revealed they had higher than average death rates.

Health Improvement Scotland (HIS), the health service watchdog, has called for the hospitals to produce action plans after figures showed higher than expected “standardised mortality ratios”.

The Western Isles Hospital, in Stornoway; Monklands Hospital, North Lanarkshire; Queen Margaret Hospital, Dunfermline; Royal Alexandra Hospital, Paisley; and the Vale of Leven Hospital, in West Dunbartonshire, have all been ordered to take action.

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In the most recent case, death rates at Western Isles Hospital have triggered a review which is still in its early stages. The Queen Margaret Hospital and the Royal Alexandra were ordered to take action in 2010 after their death rates caused concern.

The reviews were ordered on the basis of figures, gathered quarterly, which show the number of patients who die within 30 days of admission to hospital. Figures have been collected at 31 hospitals across the country since 2009 as part of the Scottish Patient Safety ­Programme.

Details of the five hospitals where HIS has intervened were revealed by health secretary Alex Neil in response to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume. Mr Hume said: “After the waiting times scandal and the A&E crisis, the news that five separate reviews into unexpectedly high numbers of deaths in Scotland’s hospitals have been ordered is yet another NHS failure on the SNP’s watch.

“I am particularly concerned by two of those reviews involving the Queen Margaret Hospital in Dunfermline, where steps are still being taken to rectify the problems identified last year.

“The health secretary must explain what was happening in these hospitals to warrant a review. He must also publish the full findings of each review as well as the steps taken at each hospital to improve their ­performance.”

Labour’s health spokeswoman, Jackie Baillie, said: “The key is that, as well as looking forward to improve, investigations look back, understand what went wrong and why. It is essential lessons are learned, and that the same issues don’t arise again.”

Mr Neil said mortality rates at the Royal Alexandra Hospital and Vale of Leven Hospital fell by 13.5 per cent after an action plan was implemented. Figures from the two hospitals have been collected together since concerns were raised at the Royal Alexandra.

Death rates fell by 11.9 per cent at Monklands and by 12.5 per cent at Fife Combined Hospitals, according to the latest figures. They show that, from July to September last year, 5,794 hospital patients across Scotland died within 30 days of admission – the lowest figure yet recorded.