PERFORMANCE: A foundation trust has calculated new-look hospital mortality rates for all hospitals and sent them to trusts as a “heads up”, before they are revealed to the public later this year.

The summary-level hospital mortality indicator has been approved by the Department of Health as an officially-endorsed hospital-wide death rate. The first figures are due to be published by the NHS Information Centre later this year.

But an email from University Hospital Birmingham Foundation Trust medical director Dave Rosser to other trusts includes their own figure under the new measure and showing how it compares to other trusts, although other trusts’ results are anonymised.

The letter says: “While I do not believe that this indicator… is any more a true or accurate measure of a hospital’s clinical quality than the [hospital standardised mortality ratio, a similar and disputed measure], I am only too well aware of the negative publicity and public anxiety that release of this number may cause.”

UBH has previously performed badly on the HSMR and other metrics produced by Dr Foster Intelligence.

The letter says: “The UHB informatics team has calculated the SHMI for trusts in England and we have decided to make this available to every trust in order to give you advance notice in case you feel any actions are required prior to its general release.”

The letter - sent at the end of last month - also offers trusts access to an online system run by UHB which will include their mortality figures for clinical specialties, as well as the hospital overall. It says after a week’s free access the trust will charge for access to that service because “there are considerable costs associated with maintaining and continuing to develop this service”.

Dr Rosser told HSJ he accepted the “official” SHMI figures would be those published by the Information Centre later in the year, but said he was confident those sent out were correct under the current agreed methodology.

He said: “I am very keen people understand the fact we have calculated this doesn’t mean we give them much credence [as a useful measure of care quality].

“The purpose of putting it out is to say, ‘This will go in the press when it is released so here is a heads up.’”

Dr Rosser said he did not want to make money from the SHMI because he did not think it was useful information, but was hoping income from access to its quality information system, called UHB Healthcare Evaluation Data, could be reinvested in developing it.

He said he believed monitoring “blips” in a hospital’s mortality figures was useful but not judging trusts’ quality by comparing different figures.

A DH-convened group designed the SHMI following rows about the reliability of the HSMR and the fact other similar measures produced different results.