THE Dudley Group NHS Foundation Trust is among nine hospital trusts set to be investigated over mortality rates, it was confirmed today (Monday).

The NHS Commissioning Board said the Trust, which runs Russells Hall - the borough’s main hospital, has been an “outlier” on the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) for two years running.

The Dudley Group’s chief executive Paula Clark, however, has moved to restore confidence by saying the review, which will be carried out by medical director Sir Bruce Keogh in the wake of the damning Mid Staffs report, “will give further reassurance around the safety and quality of our services”.

She said current independent analyses show the Trust is not an outlier and is within the expected range on the mortality index and she added: “Indeed the overall number of deaths continues to decline against the backdrop of an ageing population with complex health needs.”

She continued: “We completely understand that this is a time of high anxiety for patients.

“The Trust is committed to ensuring the best possible care.

“We take mortality indices very seriously and use them as a flag for further reviews of our care practices. This is one of a number of tools we use to assure ourselves of the quality of our care.

“I would like to reassure our patients and their families that we do everything in our power to ensure patients are safe and well cared for.”

She said the Trust undertakes a number of measures to ensure safety is a “top priority”.

The Board of Directors, she said, receives monthly reports from matrons and clinical directors, carries out patient safety walkabouts, talks to frontline staff and carries out audits at ward level.

The Trust also has a whistle blowing policy, she said, and takes part in the regional patient Safety Thermometer audit which looks monthly at patient harms on a census basis.

She added: “We are very much in the pack with other trusts. We have a good safety culture and a very honest and open reporting system as we believe that’s the best way to encourage learning and make improvements into patient safety.”

Ms Clark said the Trust ensures lessons are learned from complaints and concerns raised by patients.

She added: “We offer face to face meetings with complainants to help us understand how their experience made them or their families feel and we fully investigate all complaints to ensure we learn from them.

“We also ensure we feedback all comments we receive via the web and social media channels to the leads for those areas to ensure comments both good and bad are fed back to the people involved.”

She said patients and their families are encouraged to feedback their views after a stay in hospital.

They are also asked if they would recommend Russells Hall Hospital to a relative or friend and she added: “We are consistently higher than the regional average.”

Sir Bruce said the purpose of his investigation into the nine Trusts is to “assure patients, public and Parliament that these hospitals understand why they have a high mortality and have all the support they need to improve”.

He added: “This will be a thorough and rigorous process, involving patients, clinicians, regulators and local organisations.”

The timescale and terms of reference for the investigation will be announced shortly.