It is surprising that the Guardian gives any credence to the statistics of hospital mortality promoted by Sir Brian Jarman on Channel 4. Hospital death rates, particularly if followed over time, can give useful warning of problems, as Sir Bruce Keogh has stated. However comparison of such data internationally is fraught with difficulties, as we found when we first published the European Atlas of Avoidable Deaths in 1988. Since total mortality rates in the UK are similar, or lower, than in the United States, as a large proportion of the population in both countries die in a hospital such a difference seems unlikely.

momento moriTo compare hospital mortality rates between hospitals, whether in one or more countries , it is necessary to take into account such factors as length of time in hospital, availability of discharge facilities, e.g. hospices, hospital admission criteria and many other procedural and cultural factors. Comparison of outcomes for individual conditions is even more difficult because of differences in diagnostic and coding procedures which have been illustrated many times. Unfortunately the data presented by Jarman in both your paper and Channel 4 is inadequate to determine the validity of the conclusions or the methods used. This is a striking media story but, unfortunately has not been subjected to proper scrutiny.

Walter Holland.


Visiting Professor

London School of Economics

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  1. I dont think Brian is saying anything bad should happen to anyone just that these stats have to be considered along with other indicators, whats so wrong about that?

    1. These are bogus statistics and have been used to undermine public faith in the NHS.

      Medical opinion clearly states that the only way to verify the causes of death are the actual patients records.

      Having read the Francis report from cover to cover I personally could not find any mention of one death except the possibility of one elderly gentleman. The media that is hostile to the NHS ethos though and Jeremy Hunt have used those statistics to Brand the NHS as failing.

      The real acid test though is will they use those same principles in private hospitals.

      Ambulance friends of mine remark how often operations that have gone wrong are immediately transferred to the NHS. never a mention in the press about those occasions is there?

      1. Denise says:

        Until you have lived through the nightmare of being failed by the NHS you will never understand. wether the figures are bogus or not, the fact is the NHS Is failing many, many patients. My husband suffered 6 ops, ileostomy, colostomy, malnutrition, lung failure, liver failure and sepsis, we’ve almost lost our house ( can’t pay the mortgage on benefits!) and my husband lost his business – so please don’t think it’s all about how many have died. We’re lucky, the hospital admitted their complete cock up as soon as they realised but even so we’ve have been treated with nothing but apathy.

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