Care Quality Commission
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Regulator publishes closed mortality outlier alerts for the first time

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) today (Thursday) published on its website details of all mortality alerts it has reviewed and closed since its mortality outlier programme began in 2007.

CQC's programme uses statistical analysis to generate an alert where the numbers of patients who have died after being admitted to hospital for a particular condition or procedure is significantly higher than expected.

A case is closed when, after rigorous analysis, CQC judges that the reasons behind the alert were clear and could be verified without requiring further work with the trust, or because it is satisfied with the trust's response to its enquiries.

The regulator has published cases analysed and closed in the two years to June 2009. It includes details of each alert, outlining: at which trust it was generated; when it was raised; the medical condition or procedure to which it relates; what action was taken; and the reasons why the alert was closed.

The CQC says an alert can be raised for many different reasons and does not always indicate a problem with the quality of care. For example, an alert could be produced if a trust records data differently, or if a specific group of patients was at higher risk than normal. The regulator says this is why it is only publishing details of closed alerts, to allow the reasons to be fully understood first.

The regulator has received more than one alert for some trusts. However, this does not always indicate that a trust is performing poorly, and can in fact show that a trust is being more transparent in its reporting.

Richard Hamblin, director of intelligence at CQC, said: "Modern NHS trusts should make monitoring outcomes for patients a top priority. Our mortality outlier programme pushes trusts to keep a close eye on outcomes, enabling them to drive improvement where necessary.

"An alert can be generated for a number of reasons, and it is important to emphasise that it's not necessarily because of a problem with the quality of care. This is why we are only publishing details of the cases we have closed. The public and the NHS can be assured that before publishing, we scrutinise each alert thoroughly and understand why it was generated. We will not publish information that we aren't sure about.

"We are committed to making details of the alerts generated by our mortality outlier programme available to the public and will publish information about closed alerts on a quarterly basis."

For further information please contact the press office on 0207 448 9401 or out of hours on 07917 232143

Notes to editors

CQC uses data generated by the Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College, as well as information from its own Intelligence directorate, to identify alerts.

The alerts up to 1 April 2009 were analysed and closed by the CQC's predecessor, the Healthcare Commission.

About CQC

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) is the (new) independent regulator of all health and adult social care in England. We inspect all health and adult social care services in England, whether they're provided by the NHS, local authorities, private companies or voluntary organisations. And, we protect the interests of people detained under the Mental Health Act. We make sure that essential common standards of quality are met everywhere care is provided, from hospitals to private care homes, and we work towards their improvement. We promote the rights and interests of people who use services and we have a wide range of enforcement powers to take action on their behalf if services are unacceptably poor.

Our work brings together independent regulation of health, mental health and adult social care (for the first time). Before April 1st 2009, this work was carried out by the Healthcare Commission, the Mental Health Act Commission and the Commission for Social Care Inspection.

Our aim is to make sure better care is provided for everyone, whether that's in hospital, in care homes, in people's own homes, or anywhere else that care is provided.

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