LONDON, March 16 (UPI) -- British officials say at least 20,000 deaths in hospitals could have been prevented if warnings about high mortality rates had been acted on quickly.
Professor Brian Jarman is working with the government to investigate 14 hospitals with higher-than-average mortality rates, in the wake of an inquiry at Stafford Hospital, which also had a high mortality rate, The Daily Telegraph reported Saturday.
Jarman said at the 14 hospitals in question, there "must be at least tens of thousands of avoidable deaths in those hospitals alone, when we should have been going in and we should have been looking at them."
The inquiry at Stafford Hospital, which is managed by Mid Staffordshire NHS Trust, found that, in an effort to make the hospital more "cost efficient," managers cut costs, including the number of nurses on staff, leading to the deaths of between 400 and 1,200 more patients than would have been expected between 2005 and 2008.
"Those hospitals which had persistently high death rates over all those years and have now been listed for investigation should have been investigated earlier, because it's quite possible we would have had fewer deaths in those hospitals -- and we are comparing them, don't forget, with the national average," Jarman told BBC Radio. "So we are saying that it's got that number above what you would expect if they had the national average death rate."