Hartlepool Borough Council has launched a probe into why more people die in hospitals run by the town’s health trust compared to other parts of the country.
Councillors say the high mortality rates at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust are unacceptable.
The council’s Audit and Governance Committee has decided to investigate the issue as one of its main health scrutiny areas of work for the year.
The trust, which runs the University Hospital of North Tees and University Hospital of Hartlepool, admits the figures are cause for concern but stress it is working to improve the situation.
Councillor Ray Martin-Wells, chair of the Audit and Governance Committee, said: “We questioned the trust at length last year and the excuse they came up with was that it was due to a change in the way that deaths were recorded.
“The committee isn’t satisfied with the explanation that we have been given and therefore we will look deeper into the disturbing figures.
What we cannot get away from is there are more people dying in this area than in other areas of the country and that’s unacceptableCouncillor Ray Martin-Wells
“What we cannot get away from is there are more people dying in this area than in other areas of the country and that’s unacceptable.”
Hospitals use a Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) as one of a number of indicators of how well it is performing.
A score over 100 means that the number of deaths higher than expected.
Between April 2014 and March 2015, the trust reported a sore of 127.10.
It has seen a consistent month on month reduction to 111.60 for February 2015 to January 2016.
The council’s investigation will involve comparisons with other similar size trusts and quizzing trust leaders.
Deepak Dwarakanath, medical director at North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “These figures are disappointing and something we take very seriously.
“The HSMR scoring system works by taking the crude mortality rate and adjusting it for a variety of factors – population size, age profile, level of poverty, range of treatments and operations provided.
“These figures are a cause for concern and we have had a number of external organisations working with us to understand these figures and to suggest areas for improvement.
“We have been assured we are doing everything that could be expected and are continuing to improve the quality of care we provide for all our patients.”