NHS hospitals to ‘bravely’ publish figures on preventable deaths

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: NEIL HALL/PA WIRE

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt. Picture: NEIL HALL/PA WIRE - Credit: PA

Health chiefs in Suffolk and Essex have welcomed Government plans to make NHS England the first care system that routinely publishes figures on avoidable patient deaths.

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN

Andy Yacoub, chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk. Picture: GREGG BROWN - Credit: Gregg Brown

Jeremy Hunt said the move will increase transparency and ensure hospitals can learn from mistakes.

“This is putting in place structures which, all over the world they are looking at the NHS and saying this is a remarkable thing to do, it’s very, very brave,” the Health Secretary added.

Mr Hunt acknowledged that pressure from regulators and the threat of litigation had sometimes prevented transparency.

Chief executive of Healthwatch Suffolk, Andy Yacoub, said: “We do not consider that this decision is necessarily a brave one but it certainly has an ethical and a moral strength to it.

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: PHIL MORLEY

Ipswich Hospital. Picture: PHIL MORLEY - Credit: Archant

“Our understanding of a well led hospital is one that is comprised of strong leadership, with transparency about decision making and honest conversations at grass roots levels. Such conversations should be led by consultants and other senior clinicians, in the process inspiring others working and volunteering at a hospital to work closely and co-productively with patients and family members.

“Good hospitals should always be able to demonstrate a learning culture (as opposed to one of blame), whereby experiences and incidents are discussed immediately after they have happened and sometimes again later depending on the seriousness of it. Our secondary health services at times work within incredibly challenging and complex circumstances. It’s as important for patients to understand this as it is for clinicians and staff to understand the need for clear, unambiguous, consistent and two-way communication with patients, carers and other professionals.”

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Ipswich and Colchester hospitals already publicly report information on deaths and both trusts have recently approved new policies to ensure they can take learning from any lives lost under their care.

A spokesman added: “Ensuring the safety of our patients and minimising avoidable deaths is the top priority for both of our hospitals. We review all deaths and fully investigate every death which could potentially have been avoided. We agree all lessons learnt from this process with our staff so that we can make further improvements promptly and wherever necessary.”