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Regulator investigates trust over cardiac surgery deaths

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The Care Quality Commission has launched an investigation into adult heart surgery at University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust, after an audit identified the service as a mortality outlier.

CQC chief inspector of hospitals Professor Sir Mike Richards has confirmed that a visit by the regulator found “significant concerns” regarding the service, particularly relating to its “safety, effectiveness and responsiveness”.

The inspection took place in December, prompted by concerns over the trust being a mortality outlier in cardiac surgery.

As a result, the trust has been required to report patient safety and outcomes data to the CQC every week, and commission an external review into the issue.

The trust, the most prestigious tertiary provider in the West Midlands, is an outlier on “risk adjusted in-hospital survival rates”. Data on this covering 2011-14 was published by the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland last September. Its survival rate was given as 95.54%.

Both the external report and the investigation by the Care Quality Commission are expected to be released soon, although confirmed publication dates have not been given.

A trust spokeswoman said it began a quality improvement programme before the data was published in recognition of improvements that needed to be made. Outcomes are improving and have been since before the trust was publicly identified as an outlier.

The trust also expressed concerns over the quality of the data identifying it as an outlier. The spokeswoman said it included a cluster of deaths attributable to a surgeon now dismissed, but not 130 “zero mortality cases” carried out by its surgeons at the Priory Hospital in an NHS “waiting list initiative”.

“Patient safety remains our number one priority”, she said, adding that the concerns are limited to adult cardiac surgery and there were no investigations ongoing into any other services.

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