AN INVESTIGATION into high death rates at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital will ‘determine whether there are any sustained failings in the quality of care and treatment’.
NHS chief Professor Sir Bruce Keogh’s probe will identify if Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust’s action to improve quality is adequate and whether or not additional steps are necessary.
It will also determine any additional external support that should be made available to help the trust improve, and any areas that may require regulatory action to protect patients.
Professor Keogh will publish a report summarising his findings before the summer.
The terms or reference and timetable of his probe emerged two weeks after it was announced he would conduct the inquiry at Prime Minister David Cameron’s behest following the publication of the Francis report into the Stafford Hospital scandal.
Professor Keogh said Queen’s and eight other trusts would be scrutinised due to their performance in the past two years according to a death rate measure called the hospital standardised mortality ratio.
Other investigations would focus on five trusts due to their score on another measure, the summary hospital-level mortality indicator.
Now, the NHS Commissioning Board has outlined the investigations’ principles and methodology.
The principles are:
*Patients and the public will play a ‘central role’ in the overall review and individual investigations;
*Staff will be ‘supported to provide frank and honest opinions’ – views which will be reflected in reports by ‘rapid responsive review teams’;
*Information and intelligence gathered to support the investigations - and the review team reports - will be published;
*Probes ‘will be built around strong co-operation’ between different health bodies.
The methodology will involve three stages:
*Gathering and analysing the full range of NHS information to develop the inquiry.
This will include examining data relating to clinical quality and outcomes and patient and staff feedback;
*A rapid response review in which a trained team of experienced clinicians, patients, managers and regulators will enter the hospitals and walk wards and interview patients, trainees, staff and senior executives.
Review team members will discuss their opinions before producing a report.
“Should the review team identify any serious concerns about the quality of care and treatment that they believe requires rapid action or intervention, the chief executive of the trust and the relevant regulator(s) will be notified immediately,” the documents say;
*A risk summit – experts and regulators will consider the rapid response review reports and other intelligence before making judgements and determining any actions and offers of support.
The documents say: “Professor Keogh will establish a national advisory group to guide the overall review process and ensure a robust and consistent approach is taken to conducting the investigations.
“This group will be comprised of patient representatives, senior clinicians from regulatory bodies and other national organisations, professional bodies and other experts in healthcare quality.”
AN MP says he is confident the probe into death rates at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital will ‘leave no stone unturned’.
Andrew Griffiths, who represents Burton, said such an outcome was vital for constituents to have full confidence in the trust.
The Conservative, who has followed Queen’s predicament closely since his election in 2010, spoke after NHS chief Professor Sir Bruce Keogh announced the terms of reference and timetable of his investigation into the hospital’s mortality rates.
“I’m struck by just how detailed and rigorous this inquiry is going to be and I find that very reassuring,” he told the Mail.
“I’m particularly pleased it will take place at so many different levels, looking at the history of individual cases, talking to patients and medical staff and also walking the wards and seeing for themselves how the hospital operates.
“What we need is for no stone to be unturned so at the end of this inquiry people in Burton can have 100 per cent confidence in their local hospital – and I think such a thorough investigation will be able to achieve that.
“If there are any problems I’m confident that they will be discovered as a result of this investigation.”
Mr Griffiths encouraged anyone with any concerns about the Belvedere Road hospital to ‘come forward and take part in this inquiry’.
Heather Wheeler, who represents South Derbyshire for the Tories, said that in her opinion people had nothing to fear from Professor Keogh’s team’s independent inquiry.
“I’m pleased they are coming to the hospital because there’s been a big change of leadership and I believe that, actually, the results from the inquiry should give reassurance to the residents that Queen’s is a safe and welcoming hospital, which I think is what the majority of people believe,” she said.
Helen Ashley, chief executive of Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, which runs Queen’s, declined to comment.
Interviewed by the Mail last week, she indicated Queen’s welcomed the inquiry and was keen to learn how it could improve services.
She also pointed out that the hospital’s performance on hospital standardised mortality ratio – the subject of Professor Keogh’s probe – was not reflected in its performance against the other accepted measure of mortality, the summary hospital-level mortality indicator.
This, Ms Ashley explained, took account of external factors such as deaths in the community, which, she said, may indicate there were factors outside Queen’s control influencing its mortality.