Lister Hospital Trust refutes claims of trying to ‘hide poor care’


- Credit: Archant

With the highest rate of palliative care deaths in the country, the East and North Herts NHS Trust – which runs Lister Hospital in Stevenage – has refuted claims NHS trusts are trying to “hide poor care” by listing patients as terminally ill.

In 2012/13, the East and North Herts NHS Trust recorded 43.5% of deaths as palliative – the highest ratio in the country.

In 2008, just 9.92% of deaths recorded by the Trust were for palliative care.

Nationally, the percentage of deaths coded as palliative has risen from 3.3% in 2006/07 to 16.4% in 2012/13.

On Friday, the national media ran a story about this sharp increase.

Nick Carver, chief executive of the East and North Herts NHS Trust, said: “Friday’s national media story suggesting NHS trusts are misusing palliative care coding either to hide poor care or just manipulate mortality ratings is important and deserves discussion.

“The Trust does have a high level of palliative care coding. This is because we are one of only a handful of hospital groups to have an NHS hospice, plus possibly the only NHS Trust in the country to offer a seven-day-a-week palliative care service.”

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The hospice has been run by the Trust since 2006.

A trust spokesman said the sharp increase in recorded palliative care deaths is due to the coding previously being inaccurate, the hospice growing in capacity, and the availability of palliative care improving.

Mr Carver said: “A recent external review of the quality of our work showed we code the care we provide accurately and within the guidance set nationally – something we audit on an ongoing basis.

“Our high level of palliative coding, therefore, reflects one of the best palliative care services available anywhere.”

Dr Foster Intelligence, the health information provider which released the national figures, has expressed concern that patients admitted to hospital specifically for specialist palliative care cannot currently be distinguished from those who were admitted for treatment and whose subsequent deterioration in health led to them receiving palliative care.

Roger Taylor, director of research and public affairs at Dr Foster Intelligence, said: “The quality of patient care in our NHS hospitals is largely assessed on the basis of data.

“If that data is not being recorded consistently and, moreover, if that isn’t picked up because of a lack of auditing, there is a risk that poor patient care is being disguised, and the public misled.

“We’re worried this issue is not being given sufficient priority. The bottom line is it could increase the possibility of failing to identify another Mid Staffs and potentially cost lives.”

• Mid Staffs refers to an estimated 400 to 1,200 patients dying as a result of poor care between January 2005 and March 2009 at Stafford Hospital.

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