PERFORMANCE: Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust has issued a statement in a bid to reassure patients over recent media coverage “suggesting that this trust has higher than expected death rates”.

Trust chief executive Angela Pedder said:  “I can reassure our patients and their families that this is not the case and that the trust continues to deliver safe, high quality health care.

“There are a number of different indicators for deaths in hospital and they all use slightly different data, which can be confusing and misleading. For this reason, the Department of Health introduced a standard benchmark to measure all deaths in hospital, called the ‘Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator’.

“Under this benchmark for the period covered by the recent Dr Foster Good Hospital Guide, (which is referred to in media articles in recent weeks) our figure was 0.88. This is better than expected and put us in the best-performing 16 trusts in the country.

“The ‘Dr Foster ‘definition of a death in hospital excludes terminally ill patients who are receiving palliative care. Due to the way we coded these patients during the period in question, we attributed fewer than 1% of deaths to this group compared to the national average of 15.9%. Unlike most other organisations we did not change our coding at the time and this therefore skews the figures, as we have been reporting a group of patient deaths that other hospitals have been excluding,” she said.

“We are currently changing our coding practice to a less stringent stance which will allow patients under hospice care to be assigned palliative care codes in the future. As a result, our ‘Dr Foster’ mortality rate will drop, through our preferred measure and that of the wider NHS is the Department of Health standard benchmark,” she added.