Death rates are “alarmingly high” at a Sussex hospital trust, according to an influential report.

Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust was singled out as one of 12 trusts nationwide where the number of patient deaths were above the expected level the Government backed Dr Foster Hospital Guide found.

The trust, which runs Worthing Hospital, Southlands in Shoreham, and St Richards in Chichester, was one of 12 trusts nationwide where death rates were higher than expected in two out of four of the categories of mortality measures.

Overall death rates in the trust – known as hospital standardised mortality ration (HSMR) – was marginally outside the expected range for 2011/2012 – however the trust said the figures were now better than average.

They also failed to meet the Dr Foster’s expected levels of summary hospital-level mortality indicator (SHMI) which also includes deaths within 30 days of discharge from hospital, however the trust said that NHS Choices data measured the number of deaths as within the expected range.

The trust’s medical director Dr Phillip Barnes said: “While we are disappointed by the Dr Foster results, it is important to stress that our overall mortality rate – without applying any complex mathematical formulas – is falling, and falling quickly.

"The rate fell by approximately 10% in the year to April 2012, and is on course to fall by a similar amount in this current year.

“Dr Foster themselves say that high HSMRs (their mathematical measure of mortality) should make trusts check out other measures of safety and quality. T

"That is precisely what we do, and are proud of the fact that we have some of the best results for nursing care and safety in the South East, low and reducing numbers of complaints about nursing care, steadily improving rates for hospital infections and excellent reports from external regulators like the Care Quality Commission.

“Dr Foster have also described the need to avoid hospital admissions where possible. We know this and have been working with our local Clinical Commissioning Group of GPs, community health services and the county council on innovative projects such as “One Call” to achieve precisely that and look after our frail elder residents without recourse to hospital beds except when it is absolutely necessary.

“Our focus is on getting overall mortality rates down, because that is about the care given to real people rather than mathematical models, and the figures show we are having a real impact on patient care.

"We also have a clear and unwavering focus on patient safety and experience. Our staff should be proud of their achievements in consistently improving the results we achieve for patients.”


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