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BMJ Qual Saf. 2012 Jul;21(7):576-85. doi: 10.1136/bmjqs-2011-000603. Epub 2012 May 3.

Mortality and morbidity meetings: an untapped resource for improving the governance of patient safety?

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Department of Applied Health Research, University College London, 1-19 Torrington Place, London, UK.



National Health Service hospitals and government agencies are increasingly using mortality rates to monitor the quality of inpatient care. Mortality and Morbidity (M&M) meetings, established to review deaths as part of professional learning, have the potential to provide hospital boards with the assurance that patients are not dying as a consequence of unsafe clinical practices. This paper examines whether and how these meetings can contribute to the governance of patient safety.


To understand the arrangement and role of M&M meetings in an English hospital, non-participant observations of meetings (n=9) and semistructured interviews with meeting chairs (n=19) were carried out. Following this, a structured mortality review process was codesigned and introduced into three clinical specialties over 12 months. A qualitative approach of observations (n=30) and interviews (n=40) was used to examine the impact on meetings and on frontline clinicians, managers and board members.


The initial study of M&M meetings showed a considerable variation in the way deaths were reviewed and a lack of integration of these meetings into the hospital's governance framework. The introduction of the standardised mortality review process strengthened these processes. Clinicians supported its inclusion into M&M meetings and managers and board members saw that a standardised trust-wide process offered greater levels of assurance.


M&M meetings already exist in many healthcare organisations and provide a governance resource that is underutilised. They can improve accountability of mortality data and support quality improvement without compromising professional learning, especially when facilitated by a standardised mortality review process.

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