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NHS “fire alarm” should be a wake up call for the Welsh Labour Government – Kirsty Williams

March 21, 2013 2:46 PM

Responding the NHS mortality figures published today, Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats said:

"In response to the Mid-Staffordshire scandal and the subsequent critical Francis Report, we asked all the Local Health Boards across Wales to publish their mortality data so that we could be assured that similar issues weren't occurring in our NHS.

"While I understand that the risk adjusted mortality index shouldn't be used in isolation to compare hospitals, it is a key comparable indicator of what is happening in a hospital or a local health board. By some of the LHBs' own admission, there is cause for concern based on the high mortality index in our Welsh hospitals. The figures provided by the LHBs show that in 11 of our 17 district general hospitals the risk adjusted mortality index is higher than average.

"It appears that the First Minister was blissfully unaware of the mortality indices in some LHBs when I asked him about them a few weeks ago. His government wasn't even keeping a check on these vital indicators, although they are, as he claims, "tier 1 priority".

"This is an issue of extremely serious concern. I am in no way comparing it to what happened in Mid-Staffordshire however, given that there are huge problems in data collection and with LHBs and the Welsh Labour Government not having a handle on what's going on, I am concerned that we wouldn't be able to readily identify areas of serious weakness in our hospitals if they arose.

"The main priority of the Welsh Labour Government is to ensure that the care given in our hospitals is safe. The Welsh Labour Government has said on many occasions that the collection and monitoring of this information is their top priority. By their own admission, they don't even know what's going. LHBs have admitted that there are huge backlogs in clinical coding, meaning that LHBs themselves are in the dark. Steps must be taken to rectify the poor data collection so that we have a clear picture of the state of our hospitals.

"There should be a mechanism whereby if a hospital or a LHB consistently exceeds a specific RAMI threshold over a period of time, Healthcare Inspectorate Wales should immediately investigate what has been going on in that LHB that has caused the high mortality index. What has been going on in our LHBs up to now is simply not good enough.

"At the first available opportunity when the Assembly reconvenes after the Easter, I want the First Minister to make an urgent statement as to what steps his government will take to ensure that we do not find ourselves in a situation similar to Mid-Staffordshire."