Huge rise in patient deaths after surgery at University Hospital of North Staffordshire
HEALTH analysts have named Staffordshire's biggest hospital as having the joint-highest post-surgery death rates in the country.
They say the University Hospital of North Staffordshire has 55 per cent more fatalities than would be expected for the number and type of patients going under the knife.
Only a hospital in Hull has the same level, with centres in London, Cornwall and Hampshire boasting the best performance with rates less than half that of the UHNS.
Even at Stafford Hospital, where a national inquiry is about to report on high numbers of deaths linked to neglect, the rate is lower.
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However, the general mortality among patients at Hartshill complex, has fallen over the past year to levels better than expected.
The research, comparing the performance of all 145 hospital trusts in the country, is published by health consultancy Dr Foster.
Managers at the UHNS say the rate of post-surgery deaths is higher because it is a 'tertiary specialist centre' which treats complex stroke, trauma and cardiac patients from a wider area and with less chance of surviving their operations.
They cite in particular the higher number of procedures carried out on people who have had heart attacks – and claim that has distorted the figures.
Called 'post-myocardial coronary angioplasty' the procedures involve widening an artery by inserting stents or tiny balloons at the point where it has narrowed or blocked.
But senior doctors vowed not to be complacent about the rate, which will be investigated to ensure care is safe – with the results made available to the public.
The hospital performs more than 100,000 routine and emergency operations a year.
Last year's Dr Foster Hospital Guide showed the general UHNS death rate had risen 16 per cent above the expected level of 100, but officials responded by ordering a review, and are still randomly checking 20 discharged patients a month to see if they have had optimum care.
The new report which looks at the year to April shows it had fallen to 104 but it is now running at a record low of just 93.4. Dr Foster figures also reveal there are 1.15 deaths per 1,000 of patients suffering from low-risk conditions – well within the expected levels.
Deputy medical director Dr John Oxtoby said: "We are pleased that Dr Foster has shown a low general mortality ratio.
"Our hospital now takes the most seriously-ill stroke, cardiac and trauma patients for a large and growing geographical area. We believe this has an impact on outcomes for some life-saving operations.
"However, we are not complacent and any data which raises a question is fully investigated."
Ian Syme, co-ordinator of pressure group North Staffordshire Healthwatch, added: "Given the pressures on the NHS and the trust in particular, these figures show it is generally doing well but could improve."