Concerns hospital death records 'covering up poor treatment'
The way hospitals record deaths could be covering up poor care and costing lives, according to health analysts Dr Foster. Data showed a sharp rise in deaths recorded as needing palliative care - relieving patient suffering at the end of their life.
The chief executive of East and North Hertfordshire NHS, Nick Carver, said his trust's high level of palliative care was because it ran an NHS hospice and was "possibly the only NHS trust in the country to offer a seven-day-a-week palliative care service to local people".
A spokesman for King's College Hospital in London said the rise in the number of its palliative cases was because the hospital now has a "much better system for formally recording palliative care".
A report saying hospitals may be covering up poor care by wrongly recording deaths "raises serious concerns", an NHS spokeswoman has said.
It is important that data recording about patient admissions is consistent and accurate so that providers and commissioners of healthcare as well as patients and the public have reliable information about the quality of care.
The Dr Foster report raises serious concerns which should give providers cause for reflection. Organisations have a responsibility to submit accurate and honest data, while the Health and Social Care Information Centre has a statutory duty to fully and publicly assess NHS data quality, giving national advice and guidance to help resolve problems and issues.
A sharp rise in the number of deaths recorded as needing "palliative care" - relieving patient suffering at the end of their life - has lead some experts to believe the term could be used to cover up poor treatment.
Some hospitals have recorded a rise of 35% in the number of deaths deemed palliative, with 36,425 recorded as part of end of life care in England last year.
This was 17.3% of the number of deaths overall and almost double the 9.1% (2,1130) recorded as needing palliative care in 2008. In 2006, just 3.3% of deaths were palliative.
Palliative care deaths are not included in the hospital standardised mortality ratio (HSMR), which compares the expected rate of death in a hospital with the actual rate of death.