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Thursday, 27 September, 2001, 23:47 GMT 00:47 UK
Hospital's death rates 'exaggerated'
All aspects of the hospital were inspected
All aspects of the hospital were inspected
A health watchdog has apologised after exaggerating a hospital's death rates.

After the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI), published its report into the Chesterfield and North Derbyshire Royal Hospital Trust in December, patients refused to be sent there for treatment.

But the hospital was given three-stars in the government rankings on Tuesday, and was within national targets for death rates within 30 days of non-elective surgery.

CHI has admitted its mistake, but says death rates at the trust are "significantly higher" than the national average.

Critical campaigning on the back of inadequate and inaccurate information has a major detrimental effect on local services

Dr John Hadfield, consultant physician at Chesterfield and North Derbyshire
A spokesman for the hospital told BBC News Online the hospital was pleased the mistake had been corrected, but added: "The damage had already been done".

The blunder was highlighted by the British Medical Association's BMA News magazine.

'Above average'

In the report, CHI said death rates for elective surgery was 100% higher than the national average. It now says the figure is 83%.

For emergency admissions, CHI said mortality rates were 29% higher. In fact, they are 8% lower than the national average.

The miscalculation arose because CHI was examining death rates which happened during the period of time an inpatient was under the care of a first consultant.

The Chesterfield figures covered those, and subsequent consultant care periods.

Avril Johns, chief executive of the trust said: "The local response to the CHI press release and report about our hospital was an assumption, by both the medial and the public, that the quality of our clinical care was poor.

"In fact, CHI were not criticising the Trust's clinical care in their report, they were critical about the fact that we had not, at the time of their visit, completed our own analysis of our mortality rates.

"We have now completed a detailed audit which included an independent review of every death.

"We found no evidence at all of poor levels of clinical practice in any of our medical or surgical specialities.

Ms Johns added that the audit had been far more wide ranging than it would have been without CHI's report - and doctors had spent time on that which could have been spent operating.

She said though she still supported CHI's work, she felt the commission should wait for hospital audits of mortality data to be complete before publishing reports.

'Inadequate and inaccurate'

Dr John Hadfield, a consultant physician at the hospital, added: "Politicians and local press should understand that their critical campaigning on the back of inadequate and inaccurate information has a major detrimental effect on local services by further undermining staff morale and confidence.

"This response simply encourages patients and particularly relatives to adopt an aggressive and negative attitude to interactions with overworked but highly committed clinical staff."

A hospital spokeswoman added that many of those who died had been seriously ill, with cancer or heart disease, and were undergoing palliative treatment.

But a spokeswoman from CHI said that although it had made a mistake, there was still an issue about higher than average mortality rates at the trust.

"We obviously regret the mistake. But the concerns we have remain the same. There would still have been a significant mortality rate issue."

See also:

25 Sep 01 | NHS Performance 2001
Star ratings handed to hospitals
25 Sep 01 | NHS Performance 2001
Q&A: Hospital star ratings
13 Dec 00 | Health
Mixed reports for hospitals
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