The NHS trust which runs Hartlepool Hospital has transformed its statistics on patient deaths to become the best performing in the region.
North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust is the top performer against the Hospital Standardised Mortality Rate (HSMR).standard, with a level of 96.17, well within the national target of 100.
The HSMR is derived from looking at the actual number of patients who die following hospitalisation at the Trust and the number that would be expected to die on the basis of average England figures, given the health characteristics of the patients treated there.
Deputy Medical Director Prof Jane Metcalf said: "As a trust, our top priority has always been quality and safety of our services for our patients and we were concerned that our mortality figures did not reflect the high level of care we believed we give.
"We undertook a comprehensive review of our services, with support from external organisations to ensure our care was good. Happily, scrutiny didn’t reveal any issues with care but we were still able to find areas to improve upon and these are where we have concentrated our efforts."
In 2015, when the Trust found it was performing poorly when measured by the HSMR, it established a Trust Outcome Performance (TOP) team to focus on the hospital’s performance by focusing on the quality of care and continuing to look for opportunities to learn and patient results.
Areas the team focused on included the delivery of end-of-life care and quicker identification of conditions such as sepsis and pneumonia, as well as ensuring documentation captured all of the patients' medical problems .
Training opportunities were increased to improve clinical awareness, systems were improved to allow practitioners to make more detailed records of patient symptoms and weekly meetings were put in place so teams could further understand deaths in their area.
The team of senior clinicians also looked at how ‘cross system communication’ could be improved, and how hospital staff could better communicate with partners at other health and social care organisations. There are regional mortality meetings too, and working together to review how all the local Trusts tackle these issues means achieving even better care for the local communities.
Professor Metcalf added: "Our clinicians are absolutely committed to delivering the best patient care and are always looking at ways to impact improved health outcomes for the people of North Tees and Hartlepool.
"Fortunately, preventable deaths are very rare but it is important that we have robust measures in place to learn from these incidents. People are living longer with more complex health conditions, and a lot of this work involved putting reviews into place that can support patients through these health challenges.
"As a safe and responsible health care provider, it is our duty to embed measures that can improve the quality of care and the overall outcomes for patients."