Mortality Data

Depending on which newspapers you read, hospital mortality rates – or death rates as they are known commonly – can be presented in rather an alarmist way. The resulting coverage often seems to forget that despite all the new technology and medical breakthroughs of recent years, it is expected that people will die in hospital – every day, every month, every year.

Most of the time, these deaths are unavoidable – the consequences of major trauma such as road traffic accidents, as well as other serious conditions like heart attacks. Some people die because their illness is incurable; yet others have come to the end of their natural life and the most important thing is that they have a dignified and respectful death, ideally at home surrounded by their loved ones.

Why do hospitals measure mortality rates?

Not only do they help us better understand the risks of hospital treatments for individual patients, changes in patterns over time can pinpoint where improvements may need to be made. They can also help those people wishing to make a choice about the hospital where they may want to have their treatment.

So, as you can see, accurate mortality data matters – to doctors and nurses, as well as to their patients.

When it comes to measuring mortality rates, there are three main statistics used:

Crude mortality rate – produced locally by the Trust itself.

Hospital standardised mortality rate (HSMR) – published nationally by Dr Foster Intelligence.

Summary hospital-level mortality indicator (SHMI) – published nationally by NHS Digital (the information and technology partner to the health and social care system).

Mortality rates for consultant surgeons

Through a national initiative supported by relevant Royal Colleges and doctors’ organisations, mortality rate information relating to individual surgeons across a number of clinical specialties is now published routinely. To find out more, please click here.

Learning from deaths policy

In December 2016 the Care Quality Commission published its report Learning, Candour and Accountability: A review of the way NHS Trusts review and investigate the deaths of patients in England. It was commissioned by the Secretary of State for Health in response to the very low number of investigations and reviews of deaths at Southern Health NHS Foundation Trust. The report concluded that opportunities to improve care for future patients were being missed.

The Secretary of State accepted the report’s recommendations, asking the National Quality Board (NQB) to translate the recommendations into a framework for implementation across the NHS. In March 2017, the first step in this programme was published in the form of the National Guidance on Learning from Deaths.

In line with this guidance, the Trust has in place a Learning from deaths policy, which details how it responds to, and learns from, deaths of patients in our care.