BOSSES at Basildon Hospital have hit back at claims they “covered up” the full extent of death rates.

The Echo previously told how Julie Bailey, of the Cure the NHS campaign, accused the hospital of “massaging” its death rate figures.

Between 2007 and 2009 Basildon Hospital had one of the highest rates of deaths amongst patients in the country, but this dropped by 8.5 percent in 2009.

This significant improvement caused critics to accuse the hospital of hiding true figures by recording the number of people dying from incurable diseases separately.

Clare Panniker, chief executive of Basildon Hospital, said: “We still have a high mortality indicator and the reduction of that is our absolute priority. We are in no way denying we have an issue, but we do deny that there was ever any inappropriate behaviour here to manipulate our figures.”

At the time figures improved, more clinic coders who log the cause of death of patients were recruited.

Whilst bosses include the accuracy of clinic coding as a reason for significant improvements, bosses insist a focus on improving clinical care was the key factor.

Mark Magrath, commercial director, said: “We can see the number of patients that died reduced quite significantly, and this is where the idea that the information has been altered or manipulated in some way probably comes from.”

In December 2011 Parkhill Internal Audit Services carried out an investigation at Basildon Hospital which found that only two patients appeared to be coded incorrectly.

The report stated there was “no evidence to suggest that patient episodes have been miscoded to palliative care and therefore the numbers reported can be considered accurate”.

Despite improvements the hospital, in Nethermayne, Basildon, is one of 14 trusts in the country currently under review for its high mortality rates.