Norfolk’s hospitals appear to be coping with squeezed bed space, it has been revealed in a national health report into death rates.

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Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2012

The 12 hospital trusts where the number of deaths are higher than expected in two of the four mortality indicators are:

- Aintree University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust

- Blackpool Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

- Buckinghamshire Healthcare NHS Trust

- George Eliot Hospital NHS Trust in Warwickshire

- Hull and East Yorkshire Hospitals NHS Trust

- Medway NHS Foundation Trust, in Kent

- North Cumbria University Hospitals NHS Trust

- Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust

- United Lincolnshire Hospitals NHS Trust

- University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust

- Walsall Healthcare NHS Trust

- Western Sussex Hospitals NHS Trust

The Dr Foster Hospital Guide 2012 has discovered that death rates at 12 NHS hospital trusts in England were alarmingly high for the 2011-12 period.

However, the results for Norfolk’s three hospitals do not raise any concerns within the report, with the James Paget University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (JPH), in Great Yarmouth, recording some lower than expected figures.

The report, entitled Fit for the Future?, found that patient safety is being risked because hospitals are “full to bursting” - with many regularly breaching the 85pc limit set in place to protect patients.

The figures show national occupancy rates running at 88pc in midweek and averaging 90pc for 11 of the 12 months, excluding quiet periods such as Christmas.

The report also outlines concerns that hospitals are increasingly focusing on cost of care rather than quality of care, stating: “These measures are to be used as a warning sign that poor-quality care may be leading to a higher-than-expected mortality.

“With the rising demand for care and falling revenues, there are concerns that trusts will focus more (or exclusively) on cost of care rather than quality of care.

“Hospital managers must ensure that they do not sacrifice one for the other.”

The report uses four main measures to indicate hospital mortality measures.

Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) measures deaths while in hospital care, based on 56 conditions that account for 80pc of deaths.

In Norfolk, the JPH returned a lower than expected figure of 86 deaths for this measure, while the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust (N&N), in Norwich, and The Queen Elizabeth Hospital NHS Foundation Trust (QEH), in King’s Lynn, were both within expected measures.

This equates to 103 deaths at the N&N and 99 at the QEH, with all other measures in the report for the three Norfolk hospitals also being within expected measures.

The report also suggests that nearly a third of beds are occupied by patients whose stay might have been avoided and that a shortage of senior doctors working out of hours could be linked to higher mortality rates at the weekends.

Dr Andrew Goddard, director of the Royal College of Physicians’ Medical Workforce Unit, said the high bed occupancy rates show that hospitals are at “bursting point”.

He said: “This prevents hospitals from being able to deliver non-urgent care - such as hip replacements - and puts staff under increasing pressure as they are constantly fire-fighting.

“It is too easy for compassionate care to be lost when doctors and nurses are struggling to cope with their workload.

“This report also contributes to the growing body of evidence that suggests mortality rates are higher at the weekend.

“Some hospitals, based outside London and often in rural areas, are struggling to recruit sufficient doctors to provide adequate out-of-hours cover. We must consider how to better distribute our medical expertise around the country.”

- For full analysis and reaction to the Norfolk figures released in the report, see tomorrow’s Eastern Daily Press.

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