NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has instructed the website NHS Choices to publish each hospital trust’s overall death rate.
Sir Bruce’s move follows concern that failures at Mid Staffordshire foundation trust may have been spotted sooner had more attention been paid to its hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR).
The ratios are one way of measuring whether a hospital’s death rate is within expected limits given the mix of patients it treats. The method is disputed by some academics, including those commissioned by West Midlands Strategic Health Authority, where Mid Staffordshire sits.
Blunt but useful
Sir Bruce said: “It would be irresponsible of trust boards not to investigate high mortality ratios. The HSMR is one of many measures that will help them do this, but it is not enough on its own. [It is] a rather blunt, but useful, indicator of trouble.”
“Given the controversy around them on both sides of the Atlantic I have instructed NHS Choices to publish HSMRs with reliable information to help the public and boards understand their strengths and weaknesses.”
He said he had also asked NHS Choices to develop plans to publish a set of 250 more sophisticated measures of quality, which have been approved by the new National Quality Board for Health and Social Care.
A spokesman for the Department of Health said there was as yet no time scale for the publication of the HSMRs or 250 additional indicators.