There is a growing row in England over safety in hospitals and the way it is assessed.According to joint public-private research body Dr Foster, 12 English hospital trusts are “significantly underperforming” and were given the lowest possible safety rating. Yet of those 12, eight were rated by the public health regulator, CQC, as “good” or “excellent.” The Dr Foster report also found that three Foundation Trusts, supposedly the country’s elite hospitals, had the highest national death rates. Eight had violated Foundation Trust licenses that, when awarded, earned trust directors an average 15 percent pay rise. The government though has defended the National Health Service. Health Minister Mike O’Brien said: “One lapse in one hospital anywhere in Britain is a failure by the NHS. But remember that 93 percent of patients said, in a recent survey, that their treatment by the NHS was good or excellent.” The Dr Foster report describes how around 5,000 patients died after being admitted to hospital with “low risk” conditions. The public regulator meanwhile has rejected some of the report’s findings as “alarmist.” The row could make the NHS a key election issue, with a vote less than seven months away.