The NHS have published data on death rates among surgeons in England, in a bid to become more transparent. This is the second year running that the information has been made public and it can be found on the My NHS website, part of NHS Choices.
Last year, 16 consultants had a death rate of 10% with one recording a rate of 31%.
Only two thirds of surgeons have agreed to publish their death rates, with 2500 refusing to do so. Sir Bruce Keogh, Medical director of NHS England feels strongly that all surgeons should agree to publication of this data. He said:
“In a sense what this endeavour does is demonstrate a new level of professionalism.”
He has warned that from next year, consultants refusing to allow publication of their data will not pass their five year validation. They will also lose their financial bonuses.
Publication of the rates is of concern to some doctors, who worry that it could misrepresent the facts. Certain surgeons may perform only a small number of operations, so a single death could heavily influence the data. There are also concerns about consultants avoiding carrying out high risk surgery in order to protect their death rate statistics.
Has important data been omitted?
The union representing the consultants is the Federation of Surgical Speciality Associations. They have branded the data crude and misleading, noting that important factors, such as the amount of time the patient was in hospital, have been omitted.
Jasmine Pomfret, Clinical Negligence specialist at Birchall Blackburn law said:
“Patients have the right to refuse to be operated on by a particular surgeon if they are concerned about their performance. Publishing the death rate will enable them to make an informed decision. They can then compare services and choose where they opt to undergo treatment.”
Sir Bruce Keogh agrees, noting that publishing the data would improve patient safety. He maintains that it would stop surgeons from undertaking a particular intervention if a colleague with more appropriate expertise was available.
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