DEATH rates for patients treated at East Lancashire hospitals, including the Royal Blackburn and Burnley General, remain higher than expected for the second year running.

Local patients’ spokesman Russ McLean said the new national NHS figures had made him “very concerned” and he was to quiz bosses about them.

The mortality ratios at five English NHS trusts, including East Lancashire Hospitals, have been “persistently high” from July 2010 to June 2012, according to the Health and Social Care Information Centre.

The Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator compares patients dying during or within 30 days of hospital treatment with the number expected to die, adjusted for factors such as deprivation.

East Lancashire Hospitals NHS Trust, 13 per cent above expectations, was the fifth worst in the country in the year to June 2012 — the same as in the 12 months to June 2011.

Medical director Rineke Schram said: “The population of East Lancashire has some of the poorest health and deprivation indices in the country. The Trust agrees that the indicator should be used as a warning signal rather than a judgement.

“Clinicians at the trust systematically review mortality data from all causes.

“This includes reviewing every patient’s death to see if anything could have been done differently, and looking at trends and patterns in disease categories to see if different treatments or methods of management should be introduced.”

Mr McLean, chair of Pennine Lancashire Patients Voices Group, said: “I am very concerned that this is the second year the trust’s figures are higher than expected and I shall be raising this issue with the trust.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the figures were an early warning sign and trusts should investigate and act.

Ian Woolley, who for 20 years chaired the Blackburn, Hyndburn and Ribble Valley Hospitals Trust, said: “These figures are an early warning signal. I am confident that clinicians will investigate them and take the appropriate actions.”

Royal College of Nursing North-West Director Steve Flanagan said: “The Health Secretary has asked the trust to examine these figures carefully and we look forward to receiving an assurance they are providing safe, high-quality care”.