Performance data for thousands of surgeons published

MORTALITY rates and other outcome data for 5,000 NHS surgeons in England are being published online as part of a drive towards greater transparency.

The figures, covering clinicians practising across 13 specialties, are designed to “reassure patients”, with mortality rates for almost all surgeons said to be “within the expected range.”

Other data gathered by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) details the length of hospital stay and patient readmission rates.

The information is being made available on the newly-launched MyNHS portal within the NHS Choices website where visitors can compare the performance of hospitals across the country.

They can also search for information by individual consultants’ names, hospital or location.

Critics fear the information will be “crude and misleading” and that vital data will not be included in the publication.

Outcomes data was first made public in 2006 with the mortality rates of cardiac surgeons. Last year data relating to 4,000 surgeons in 10 specialties was made available.

HQIP outcomes publication director, Professor Ben Bridgewater, a practising cardiac surgeon, said: “By adding more specialties, more indicators and much greater functionality on NHS Choices, we are providing patients and relatives with a much fuller picture and greater reassurance about the care they are likely to receive. This is just one part of a broader information landscape, but a vital one.”

The publication was welcomed by the Royal College of Surgeons who said the data was part of being open and honest with patients.

But Professor John MacFie, president of the Federation of Surgical Specialty Associations, told BBC News: "The publication of individual surgeons' performance data is crude and can be misleading, and does not include essential information such as duration of hospital stay and returns to theatre.

"There is now good anecdotal evidence that shows publishing this data has encouraged risk-averse behaviour, which is not in the interest of patients."

Even more data will be published next year with the addition of the one-year and five-year survival rates for individual hospitals for the four commonest cancers – lung, breast, bowel and prostate.

Read the report at www.hqip.org.uk/consultant-outcomes-publication

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