Friday, May 14, 2010

Poor measures of quality should not have triggered Mid Staffs inquiry

In a previous post, I said we needed independent academic opinion to publish comment on the use of hospital mortality data to justify the investigation into Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust (also see another previous post). The recent BMJ editorial by Nick Black is pertinent.

The hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR) depends on the proportion of deaths that take place in hospital. Availability of alternative forms of end of life care, such as hospices and community palliative services, as well as characteristics of the local population, therefore, influence the different figures between hospitals. To score well, it's better for a hospital not to admit a dying patient. In fact Mid Staffs has improved its mortality ratio by 34% over the past three years. There are also shortcomings with the HSMR measure itself.

Cavalier use of such data by government and NHS management does not give clinicians confidence that their work is really understood. Unjustifiably singling out a management team that may be no worse than many others is no help. Robert Francis, who conducted an independent inquiry into Mid Staffs, is supposed to be doing a scoping exercise for a further inquiry of the commissioning, supervisory and regulatory bodies, which has draft terms of reference.

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