At times deaths in hospital are unavoidable. On occasions they can even be expected when a patient is placed on end of life care.

While this is more common in NHS hospitals, it can happen in independent hospitals too.

As such mortalities alone cannot tell you about the safety standards at a hospital. However, they can help inform conversations with your consultant and hospital to make sure that they are right for you.

What is a mortality?

A mortality is recorded whenever a patient dies either during their hospital stay or as a result of their treatment.

On a hospital’s profile you will see two numbers which are based on the latest 12 months of information provided by the hospital:

  • the total number of mortalities; and
  • the rate of mortalities for every 1,000 patients.

The reason we publish a rate as well as a count is because hospitals that treat large numbers of patients may be more likely to report mortalities. Looking at the rate makes it easier to compare providers of different sizes that treat patients with different needs.

What can mortality information tell you about a hospital?

The first thing you should look for is whether the hospital is monitoring and reporting their mortalities. Hospitals that do are likely to have a strong focus on patient safety and learning from past mistakes.

If a hospital does not record and report mortalities this is made clear on their profile. This may lead you to question whether they adequately monitor safety, and what this might mean for your care.

If a hospital has a higher mortality rate this could be for a number of reasons.

A hospital that mainly performs simple procedures such as cataract surgery would be expected to have a low mortality rate. Whereas hospitals which treat more complex patients might expect to have more mortalities but are also more likely to have processes in place prevent them from happening.

Your checklist

  1. Check whether your local hospital is reporting their mortalities. If they aren’t, what does this say about safety in the hospital, and what could this mean for your care?
  2. Understand your hospital’s mortalities. Does your hospital treat more at-risk groups which might explain a higher mortality rate?
  3. Ask questions. Use the information published on our website to guide your conversations with your hospital and consultant.

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