A HOSPITAL trust is investigating a rise in its patient death rate.

Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals NHS Trust has been experiencing the increase since May last year but has not found out why.

The trust’s standardised mortality ratio (HSMR), which tracks death rates stands at 97.81 compared to 88.30 more than a year ago.

This is still below the NHS average of 100 but bosses are concerned about the direction the figures are going.

Trust chief of safety and quality Steve Drage told board members at a meeting yesterday the rate had been going up for several months.

He said: “No specific rate has been found for the increase.

“We are trying to unpick why it is going up and are carrying out a detailed review of each death.”

Mr Drage said a lot of improvement work was being done and one of the areas being looked at was the treatment of deteriorating patients to ensure staff are responding quickly enough to incidents.

Trust chief executive Marianne Griffiths said work also had to be done around the diagnosis and treatment of sepsis.

Sepsis, known as the silent killer, which affects thousands of people every year but often goes undetected until it is too late for treatment to work.

It happens when an infection causes an extreme response from the body’s immune system and can quickly lead to the failure of the heart, liver, lungs or kidneys and eventual death.

According to the UK Sepsis Trust, 150,000 people in the UK develop sepsis every year and of those, 44,000 die.

A quarter of survivors suffer life-changing disabilities such as amputation or organ failure.

However awareness of the condition is still very low with few people recognising the symptoms and doctors often struggling to diagnose it quickly enough.

Ms Griffiths said: “We really are taking the mortality rate very seriously.

“We are still below 100 but the trend is not where we want to go at the moment.”

Chairman Mike Viggers said even through the figure was below average, it was something the trust “really needed” to deal with.

Board members were also told about ten serious incidents declared by the trust between April and June.

These included a baby born with fractures and a brain injury during a caesarean at hospital.

In another incident a patient being given the wrong anaesthetic, which is classed as a never event.

Never events are serious, largely preventable incidents should not happen if the available preventative measures have been put in place.

In a separate part of the report the board was told one patient was found to have developed the highly infectious bug clostridium difficile in April.

When the records were reviewed it was found there had been lapses in care in relation to sample taking and processing within the community and the trust.

There had also been a delay in isolating the patient while in hospital.

C.diff causes diarrhoea and colitis, which is an infection of the intestines.

Elderly patients and those in intensive care are more vulnerable to the disease because they are often on antibiotics, which can help trigger the infection.

Infections usually respond well to treatment, with most people making a full recovery in a week or two.

However the symptoms come back in about one in five cases and treatment may need to be repeated.

This can mean a patient having to stay longer in hospital, which puts increased demand on beds.