NHS Trusts are to examine the deaths of patients while undergoing treatment to help an academic calculate how many of them could have been avoided if better care had been administered.
The investigation will begin after Nick Black, professor of health services research at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, was asked by NHS England to look into the relationship between calculated excess mortality rates and avoidable deaths in hospitals. A paper by Black last year studied ten hospital Trusts and found that one patient in ten is affected by potentially serious medical errors, with half dying as a result.
Hospital trusts will be asked to check the case notes of about 100 patients who died while undergoing treatment to calculate how many were lost "needlessly".
NHS medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh, who hired Black, said that the current mortality index in use, known as hospital standardised mortality ratio (HMSR) was not able to calculate the number of preventable deaths.
With the new data that trusts are set to collect, a new scheme will be set up next April to calculate the preventable death rate in the NHS.
Black told the Guardian that the idea was not to persecute any individuals but to identify "organisational failure".
What we have found is that many preventable deaths are occurring in elderly people with multiple pathologies. These are patients with a matter of weeks to live. We want to identify mistakes contributing to these deaths," he said.