Surgeon Data Published by the NHS for the First Time

For the first time, the NHS is publishing performance data for individual surgeons in nine specialties in what is being hailed as a “historic moment” for the NHS. In the coming year NHS England is to publish the information publicly which includes death rates.

The specialties taking part account for about 4,000 surgeons. Data is initially being made public for the following specialties. Publication began on Friday 28 June with most results due to be available by 5 July:

  • Adult cardiac surgery (heart surgery)
  • Vascular surgery (surgery on veins and arteries)
  • Thyroid and endocrine surgery (surgery on the endocrine glands)
  • Bariatric surgery (surgery to treat obesity)
  • Interventional cardiology (heart disease treatments carried out via a thin tube placed in an artery)
  • Orthopaedic surgery (surgery for conditions affecting bones and muscles)
  • Urological surgery (surgery on the kidneys, bladder and urinary tract)
  • Colorectal surgery (surgery on the bowel). (to be published Autumn 2013)
  • Upper gastrointestinal surgery (surgery on the stomach and intestine).  (to be published Autumn 2013)
  • Head and neck cancer surgery. (to be published Autumn 2013)
The initiative only applies to England, although some specialties have chosen to publish data they hold for Scotland and Wales. The NHS intends to make more information available in future.

Due to data protection, consultants had to consent to have their results published and approximately 98% have done so. The data shows the clinical outcomes for each consultant compared with the national average. Where results differ significantly from the national average, there may well be a reasonable explanation; and patients should be able to discuss this with their GP and surgeon prior to surgery.

The information published includes the number of times each consultant has performed certain procedures and what their individual mortality rate is for those procedures. In addition to mortality rates, the data includes information on other aspects of the surgery including duration of stay in hospital.

Some doctors have been resistant to this publication of data as they fear it will give a misleading impression, including that doctors who take on the most difficult and complex cases may appear to be performing badly, when in fact they could be the leading specialists in their field.

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh has said:

"This has been done nowhere else in the world, and I think it represents a very significant step.

"A number of great British institutions have lost some element of public trust recently because they're seen to clam up when things go wrong.

"It's my ambition that we in the NHS do exactly the opposite and we share the way we perform and what we offer our patients with the public, who I think really deserve to see how well we're performing, because everybody owns the NHS.”

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