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Healthwatch Enfield and Haringey question 'palliative' death increase at North Middlesex Hospital
Health watchdogs have called on a commissioning body to investigate the increase in deaths recorded as ‘palliative' at North Middlesex University hospital.
Healthwatch Haringey and Healthwatch Enfield have come together to ask the Care Quality Commission (CQC) to investigate the way in which the hospital in Sterling Way, Edmonton, calculates the standards of care it offers to patients.
The request has come in the light of numbers showing a dramatic increase in patient deaths coded as ‘palliative’, meaning that death was expected because the patient was terminally ill.
In 2008, the percentage of deaths coded palliative was 4.76 per cent, but figures in 2012 show 31.48 per cent, a jump of 26.72 per cent in four years and the fifth biggest increase of all NHS hospitals in the country.
Healthwatch Haringey Chairman Sharon Grant said: “It is important that people have accurate information about the standards of care, and death rates at a hospital can be an important indicator of quality, along with other measures commonly used.”
A North Middlesex University hospital spokesman said: "We are disappointed that Healthwatch did not discuss their concerns with us. Had they done so we would have reassured them there is an issue about the way some mortality figures are measured rather than an issue with our quality of care and safety.
"The way we measure palliative care is in line with national standards and is independently audited every year. There has never been any suggestion that we provide inappropriate care or that our data is not robust.
He added: "One measure of hospital mortality rates - the HSMR - includes palliative care which it is agreed can skew the results.
"However, we perform very strongly against the now more widely used Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) which does not include palliative care and which is produced by the Health and Social Care Information Centre.
“We are one of the best performers with regards to SHMI in the country - among only 12 trusts with lower than expected mortality rates. We are also one of the best performers against a broad range of other quality measures.
"We have already offered to meet Healthwatch and discuss this issue with them. We hope the Care Quality Commission will also be able to explain it to them."
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