New data released by the NHS has revealed that two hospitals in the North East have a 'higher than expected' level of deaths.

Of the 119 NHS trusts included in the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI) from December 2022 to November 2023 only 12 had a higher level of mortality than expected - including Darlington Memorial Hospital and the University Hospital of North Durham.

The statistics analyse how many patients died while in care or within 30 days of being discharged.

Darlington Memorial Hospital had 80 more deaths than its expected 410 and Durham had 170 more than its expected 530.

The NHS website did state: "A higher than expected number of deaths should not immediately be interpreted as indicating poor performance and instead should be viewed as a 'smoke alarm' which requires further investigation."

A spokesperson for County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust, said: "Mortality rates can be influenced by various factors including the complexity of cases and underlying health conditions but also by how the data is processed and recorded.

"We know that we have experienced some challenges with our data processes and recording and while we acknowledge that the Trust’s mortality indicator SHMI is currently higher than expected, we would like to provide assurance that we have robust processes in place which constantly review the quality of care given to patients who have died.

"We sought independent external input to review our mortality data and processes. The review provided assurance around the quality of care being delivered and supported some improvement actions around the data processing.

"This has included working closely with our clinicians to ensure patient information is added to the correct fields within the patient records and to provide additional support to our clinical coding teams.  

"We have a further review planned to continue this oversight and improvement. In addition we are aware that there was an error with the submission data in the latest data published by NHS Digital which means it is incomplete. This has now been rectified for future submissions."

Peter Gibson, Conservative MP for Darlington, said: "The publication of any data which might cause alarm in the community should be treated with caution, and particularly as in this case where there is incomplete data.

"I am due to meet with the trust and I will be demanding to know that the care at our hospital is as we would expect it to be and is safe."