Essex: NHS Death Figures 'Warning Light'

As many as 3,000 people may have died needlessly in just one year at the 14 hospital trusts that are being investigated by health officials for having higher than expected mortality rates, including two in Essex, figures show.

Following the publication of the report into serious failings at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust, NHS England medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh launched an investigation into the trusts because of their high mortality rates.

Nine of the trusts have been ''outliers'' on the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) for two years running and the other five were identified by the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) as having higher than expected death rates.

The latest SHMI figures, which compare the number of patients who died following admission to hospital with the number who would be expected to die, show that in just one year there were 2,997 more deaths than would have been expected.

The SHMI, which concerns figures for a year from October 2011, identified 10 NHS trusts as having "higher than expected" death rates - of these, eight are being investigated in the Keogh mortality review.

Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust and Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Tameside Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, and the Blackpool trust were categorised as higher than expected from October 2010 to October 2012.

The trusts had a combined total of almost 1,500 more deaths than expected in 2011 to 2012 - according to the figures.

Officials cautioned that the data is "experimental" and the figures should only act as a "smoke alarm".

NHS England said that the 14 trusts under investigation would soon be visited by a team of experts including doctors, nurses and patient representatives.