Hospitals have been accused of fiddling their death rates by recording vast numbers of patients as being terminally ill.
In attempting to improve their statistics, they are alleged to be covering up the fact that patients admitted for treatable conditions are dying.
At some trusts, the percentage reported as having cancer or serious diseases – which meant their deaths were ‘unavoidable’, and thus not included in key mortality statistics – has increased more than ten-fold in just three years.
The figures were uncovered by Dr Foster Intelligence, a joint venture with the Department of Health which monitors the performance of the NHS.
The revelations have prompted concerns that some hospitals are deliberately massaging data.
Roger Taylor, of Dr Foster, explained how an elderly patient might go in to hospital with a broken hip, develop an infection and die.
Staff would then code this death as ‘palliative’ even though the patient was not initially expected to die.
This could be deliberate or a mistake, as the guidelines for recording deaths are unclear. Nonetheless it is very different from a true palliative death of a patient with terminal cancer…