The publication of hospital mortality rates is part of the Government’s drive for greater transparency and should help the NHS drive up quality of care.
Risk-adjusted mortality rate data, such as Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) is in the public domain. While they do not tell us whether a hospital is safe or unsafe, they can act as a warning light to trusts and commissioners to take stock and take appropriate actions to improve services.
The SHMI can be used by hospital trusts to compare their mortality outcomes to the national baseline. Trusts should commit to understanding their mortality information, particularly where these indicate high mortality and commissioners should use mortality rates to highlight underlying problems which require further investigation. They should also provide contextual information in support of the commissioning process.
Regulators (for example, the Care Quality Commission) and commissioning organisations can also use the SHMI to investigate outcomes for trusts. However, the SHMI should not be used to directly compare mortality outcomes between trusts and it is inappropriate to rank trusts according to their SHMI.
The Government will be shortly setting out plans for how it will be supporting trusts and other providers to review and ultimately reduce their avoidable deaths.