MORTALITY at two hospitals in the west of Scotland has been red-flagged for the second time this year after it emerged that the death rate among patients was "significantly higher" than the national average.

The Royal Alexandra Hospital (RAH) in Paisley and the Vale of Leven in West Dunbartonshire were the only two hospitals in Scotland to raise alarm bells over their mortality statistics between April and June this year.

It is the second quarter in a row that the facilities have been "red-flagged", but NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde said problems with data gathering had previously skewed the results at the Vale of Leven and they believe that a similar issue may be at play at the RAH.

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The figures, compiled by ISD Scotland, use a measure known as the Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratio (HSMR) to evaluate anomalies in the number of "predicted" patient deaths - based on factors such as the age, diagnosis, and severity of illness - against the number of deaths which actually occurred.

A high or higher than expected does not necessarily indicate poor quality of care, but it is designed to "be a trigger for further investigation".

In Scotland as a whole, the HSMR was 0.86 between April and June this year - meaning that the number of patient deaths was 14 per cent less than predicted. It has been falling steadily since the beginning of 2014.

However, at the RAH and Vale of Leven hospitals - which are grouped as one in the statistics - the HSMR score was 1.02, meaning that patient mortality was two per cent higher than expected.

It equated to 327 actual patient deaths over the three-month period, compared to the 321 predicted.

However, it is considered significant because it is three standard deviations above the Scottish average.

Mortality rates were previously red-flagged at the hospitals in January to March this year, and January to March 2016, when they were respectively eight and 14 per cent higher than predicted.

A spokeswoman for NHSGGC said the health board welcomed the reduction in the ratio compared to the previous quarter.

She added: "We have identified issues with the quality of our previous information and improved the data being supplied from the Vale of Leven Hospital. This has increased the accuracy of the HSMR calculations there, reducing them to below the national average. We believe there may be similar data issues at the Royal Alexandra Hospital, so we will now make the same improvements there.

"As a Board we remain confident in the standards of care in the Royal Alexandra and Vale of Leven hospitals and in the improvement work which has been carried out by the clinical teams.

"However, as HSMR figures there remain higher than expected, we are continuing to work with the clinical and managerial teams, supported by ISD and Healthcare Improvement Scotland, to identify factors that might be having a bearing on the HSMR figures."

Jackie Baillie, MSP for Dumbarton: “This is not the first time that the mortality statistics at the Royal Alexandra and Vale of Leven hospitals have set alarm bells ringing and it’s time for the Scottish Government to act."