CHKS: Is company being paid to help the NHS hide its death rates?

Is company being paid to help the NHS hide its death rates Critics say firm 'reclassifies' potentially avoidable deaths
Firm said it could help reduce death rates by re-categorising deaths as being caused by terminal illness rather than poor care

By
Sophie Borland

PUBLISHED:

03:24 GMT, 4 March 2013

|

UPDATED:

12:00 GMT, 4 March 2013

Hospitals may be paying thousands of pounds to a private firm to cover up their patient death rates.

Critics are concerned they are hiring a company called CHKS to ‘re-classify’ potentially avoidable deaths.

The firm – which advises hospitals on improving overall performance – has strongly denied the claims.

Allegation: The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals allegedly offered data recorder Sandra Haynes Kirkbright thousands of pounds to 'fix' its death rates

Allegation: The Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals allegedly offered data recorder Sandra Haynes Kirkbright thousands of pounds to 'fix' its death rates

On Saturday the Mail revealed that
one trust, the Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals, allegedly offered data
recorder Sandra Haynes Kirkbright thousands of pounds to ‘fix’ its death
rates. The trust denied her claims.

Another
NHS trust, Bolton University, is under investigation for apparently
re-classifying needless deaths and its chief executive has ‘stepped
aside’.

Obscene: Julie Bailey, who founded the group Cure the NHS said the NHS is for caring for patients, not to try and manipulate figures

Obscene: Julie Bailey, who founded the group Cure the NHS said the NHS is for caring for patients, not to try and manipulate figures

In
2008, CHKS claimed it could help hospitals reduce their death rates by
re-categorising deaths as being caused by a terminal illness rather than
poor care.

It
sent a notice to NHS trusts stating: ‘Adjusting the mortality index to
exclude these deaths reduced the hospital’s score by just over a third –
most hospitals would consider 5 per cent as a good achievement.’

The
firm is hired by around 120 NHS trusts to give advice on reducing
spending, improving care and cutting waiting times. But there is concern
it is also offering advice on reclassifying death rates.

Julie
Bailey, who founded the group Cure the NHS after her mother died in the
Mid Staffordshire hospital scandal, said: ‘It’s obscene. We are talking
about people’s lives here.

‘What the NHS should be for is to care for patients not to try and manipulate [figures] after people have died to disguise it.’

Jason Harries, managing director of CHKS said its auditors follow Department of Health coding rules.

‘If
for example CHKS is recommending coding for palliative care
(re-classifying cause of death as due to terminal illness) it is because
specialist or generalist palliative care is recorded in the clinical
notes and coders have missed it, not because it improves mortality
rates,’ he said.