THE county’s health trust continues to have higher than expected patient death rates.

The Wye Valley NHS Trust Standardised Hospital Mortality Index (SHMI) is above the upper control limit, as reported to the Herefordshire Clinical Commissioning Group last month.

The data, which covers the period from October 2015 to September 2016, also showed that deaths from pneumonia, acute cerebrovascular disease and urinary tract infections are much higher than expected.

The SHMI is the ratio between the actual number of patients who die in hospital at the trust, or within 30 days of hospitalisation, and the number that would be expected to die on the basis of average English figures, given the characteristics of the patients treated there.

Dr Martin Sandler, consultant physician and deputy medical director for the trust, said: “Wye Valley NHS Trust takes the investigation of, and learning from, deaths in hospital extremely seriously.

“Regular investigation of individual deaths, review of a range of more serious illnesses often causing death and regular assessment of statistics relating to mortality are features of the trust’s rigorous approach to ensure it delivers the highest quality of patient care.”

Wye Valley NHS Trust has had –almost consistently – higher than expected mortality rates since the SHMI introduction into the NHS in 2011.

Dr Sandler said a “higher percentage of older frail people among the trust’s patients does lead to an increase in the proportion of deaths from urinary and respiratory infection” as, he claimed, these conditions are associated with the end of life in older adults.

He added: “These latter factors have influenced a high SHMI in Herefordshire over many years; repeated investigations and reviews have confirmed high standards of clinical care, and processes are in place to continue learning from these reviews. This ongoing monitoring ensures high quality care is provided.

“Underneath the headline statistics we work hard to identify any preventable deaths.

“At a national level a lot of effort is being made to standardise the identification of preventable deaths which will lead to more meaningful comparisons between hospitals.”

The latest data, from October 2015 to September 2016, listed the trust's SHMI as 116.