Concern over hospital deaths
CONCERN has been voiced after new figures revealed that seven patients have died in unexpected incidents at Peterborough and Stamford hospitals in the last 16 months.
The deaths were among nine serious untoward incidents (SUIs) recorded by Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust from January 2009 to May this year.
The figures mean the trust has the third highest number of patient deaths as a result of SUIs in the East of England. The only trusts that recorded more were Milton Keynes with 29 and Luton and Dunstable with 11.
Health officials define SUIs as something out of the ordinary with the potential to cause serious harm or attract public interest. The figures have prompted a call from Peterborough MP Stewart Jackson for action.
In one incident reported in January this year, a patient died of a heart attack within 24 hours of being admitted to hospital. That person, who has not been named, had been transferred to the High Dependency Unit and then to intensive care. Details of the hospital involved have also not been revealed.
But the patient’s death led to an investigation at the hospital with the trust still waiting for details of a separate investigation by external agencies. The death was also reported to NHS Peterborough primary care trust.
Details of a separate SUI reveal how a patient collapsed and died a few days after being discharged from hospital in May last year, after undergoing what health officials describe as a procedure which was uneventful.
In that case, the coroner was informed and the cause of death was found to be a blood clot. Again, details of the patient and the hospital involved have not been disclosed.
After the incident, procedures were put in place to ensure details of all staff present during a patient review were documented and that staff making decisions on care or discharge were identified and told to sign the records.
But not all SUIs are down to medical errors, as some may be deaths which were unexpected or simply could not be explained. Some may not even involve patients directly. For instance, the figures include the theft of a laptop containing confidential patient data from Peterborough District Hospital in April this year.
Mr Jackson said: “It’s impossible to legislate for untoward incidents but I’m pleased the hospital is committed to reducing them. I would like to see us move out of the region’s top three.”
The alarming statistics for the 16 months from January last year were revealed in a Freedom of Information request. But separate figures show that from March 2008 to April 2009, there were a total of eight SUIs, compared to seven for 2009/10.
Hospital trust medical director John Randall said SUIs were rare but were treated extremely seriously.
He said: “The trust complies with an extremely strict reporting protocol in the event of an SUI which will involve, as well as its own internal investigations, reporting to NHS Peterborough with which the trust has a contract to provide healthcare and to Monitor, the independent regulator of NHS Foundation Trusts.
“NHS Peterborough informs the East of England Strategic Health Authority, which in turn informs the Department of Health.
“Depending on the nature of the SUI this can sometimes involve informing the coroner, who will then decide whether an inquest is necessary.
“The trust treats any serious untoward incident extremely seriously indeed. We work very hard to ensure that policies and procedures are being adhered to by all staff, at all times.
“If an incident is serious enough to be classed as an SUI, a group will immediately meet to investigate what happened, why and what can be done to ensure such incidents do not happen again.”