Five NHS hospital trusts in the Midlands have been shamed as the worst in the country for higher than expected death rates.

George Eliot Hospital, in Nuneaton, was named the worst performer with 1,024 deaths when only 843 were expected.

Worcestershire Acute Hospitals Trust, running Redditch’s Alexandra, Kidderminster and Worcester hospitals, Royal Wolverhampton Hospitals NHS Trust, Dudley Group and Burton Hospitals were also among 36 trusts found to have higher than expected death rates.

The Department of Health figures for April last year to March this year show the Worcestershire Trust had 2,681 deaths but 2,442 were expected.

Dudley Group of Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust recorded 2,136 deaths when 1,959 were expected, the Wolverhampton Trust, running New Cross Hospital, had 2,195 deaths with 1,971 expected, while Burton Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust had 1,257 deaths compared to 1,121 expected.

The findings were through a new methodology, the Summary Hospital-level Mortality Indicator (SHMI), which monitors all deaths plus those occurring within 30 days of being discharged from hospital.

A high SHMI shows that more people in the care of a hospital are dying than expected, which could indicate a low standard of care or problems with data collection.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said the new system acted “like a smoke alarm” as an early trigger for potential problems, prompting further investigation.

Mr Lansley said: “This new measure will help ensure patient safety by acting like a smoke alarm to prompt further investigation. Alongside other data, this will help the NHS in future to spot and act on poor care as soon as possible.

“We are determined to learn the lessons of the appalling events at Mid Staffordshire - this data will help us avoid a repeat of that tragedy.

“A more transparent NHS is a safer NHS where patients can be confident of receiving high quality care.”

A Dudley Group of Hospitals spokeswoman said: “We take mortality indicators very seriously and use a number of sources to assure ourselves of the quality of our care. 

"In particular a review of all deaths is undertaken by a senior medical team.”

David Loughton, chief executive of Royal Wolverhampton Trust, said: “We agree with the Department of Health that this can be used as a warning signal to prompt further investigation and can help NHS Boards understand comparative information about in-hospital deaths.

“These measures can help the NHS understand how it is performing, but are not enough on their own to give a whole picture of the organisation. 

"They should also be looked at alongside other local measures of the care they provide, such as readmission rates, infection rates, patient/staff surveys to support the improvement in quality of care.”