At least 40 patients suffered “avoidable” deaths in London hospitals last year, the Standard can reveal.
A further 200 suffered problems with their care that may have contributed to their demise. At least four women died during or shortly after childbirth.
The full extent of avoidable deaths may be far higher as a number of hospitals have only published figures for the first three months of 2017/18 so far.
NHS trusts were ordered to disclose the deaths by Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt as part of a drive to make the health service the best in the world at learning from mistakes.
An Evening Standard analysis of the first declarations made by London trusts found:
* More than 10,000 inpatient deaths have been declared since last April.
* About a third of these have been reviewed, though only a fraction in detail.
* St George’s, in Tooting, declared 12 avoidable deaths.
* Barts Health, the country’s biggest NHS trust with five hospitals, declared nine.
* King’s College, Chelsea and Westminster and Lewisham and Greenwich each declared three.
* Major trusts such as Imperial, UCLH and London North West Healthcare declared none.
Concerns have been expressed at the lack of a uniform system of assessing the deaths. Some trusts were said to be more committed than others to investigating the deaths.
The Department for Health had suggested that between 1,200 to 9,000 deaths a year in England were avoidable, but the London figures suggest this may be an over-estimate.
Dr Ollie Minton, a consultant in palliative medicine, who helped compile the figures at St George’s, said the London-wide total of 40 deaths was “probably too low” when compared with the number of serious incidents known to happen.
He told the Standard: “But it wouldn’t surprise me if it wasn’t much more than that, as not all serious incidents lead to death.
“If you try and say there are zero deaths, I would find that more worrying than helpful.”
St George’s had 1,208 deaths between April and September, and has reviewed 1,008. Of these, 40 were to some degree avoidable. None were “definitely avoidable” but six had “strong evidence of avoidability” and six were “probably avoidable”.
Dr Minton said: “This is labour-intensive but well worthwhile. It is still helpful [when reviewing a death] to see that there is nothing we would have done differently.”
Dr Nigel Kennea, chairman of the mortality monitoring committee at St George’s, said “exceptional winter pressures” had contributed to a higher number of deaths. He said: “I have not seen such an increase since the winter of 2014.”
Barts Health reviewed 410 deaths and found nine to be avoidable. Chief medical officer Dr Alistair Chesser said: “We are ensuring that all deaths that occur in the trust are discussed in these meetings. Some don’t need much discussion. Some do need more rigour.
“Of the 410 deaths we looked at, nine were potentially avoidable, which is about two per cent. Other trusts are reporting something between zero and five per cent. I would be worried if we were reporting zero. Every trust has risks attached to it.”
Guy’s and St Thomas’ reviewed 498 deaths. Of these, “strong evidence of avoidability” was found in once case, 10 were “probably avoidable but not very likely” and in 24 there was “slight evidence of avoidability”.
The maternal deaths happened at St George’s, Barts. Guy’s and St Thomas’ and University College hospital.
- An edited version of this story appears in tonight’s Evening Standard