Our response to Sir Bruce Keogh's review of hospitals with high mortality rates

Responding to the publication of Sir Bruce Keogh’s review into the quality of care and treatment provided by 14 hospital trusts in England, Chris Ham, Chief Executive of The King’s Fund said:

‘Today’s review once again highlights that standards of patient care in some hospitals are not good enough, reinforcing the message from the Francis report that quality and safety must be the first priority for all NHS organisations.

‘The reasons for the kind of problems identified by the review are complex, but ultimately reflect poor leadership and a failure to develop the right culture of care at the hospitals identified. Small hospitals also face particular financial challenges and often struggle to secure sufficient staff.

‘It is well known that some of the hospitals highlighted in the review have longstanding problems most of them have already replaced their chief executives and chairs, so removing senior staff is unlikely to deliver the improvements needed. We therefore welcome the review’s recommendations, which provide a mixture of intervention and support to help the hospitals identified to improve, for example, by establishing partnerships with high-performing organisations.

‘The review rightly emphasises the importance of hospital boards making better use of data to identify potential problems. High mortality rates should be treated with caution, but are an important warning sign. It is also important to look at other indicators, especially feedback from patients and staff.

‘The review also highlights workforce issues, in particular inadequate staffing levels and a lack of experienced cover at night and at weekends this emphasises the ongoing challenge for hospitals to provide adequate staff as the financial squeeze tightens especially given emerging recruitment difficulties in some parts of the NHS workforce.

‘Responsibility for the quality of care in hospitals ultimately lies with frontline staff and with boards creating the right culture of care must be their top priority so that problems are tackled before investigative action is required.’

Notes to editors: 

For further information or to request an interview, please contact The King's Fund press office on 020 7307 2585 (or 07584 146035 if calling out of hours).

The King's Fund is an independent charity working to improve health and health care in England. We help to shape policy and practice through research and analysis; develop individuals, teams and organisations; promote understanding of the health and social care system; and bring people together to learn, share knowledge and debate. Our vision is that the best possible care is available to all.