NHS releases performance data for surgeons

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The NHS has released performance data for around 5000 surgeons in England in a move to more transparency.

Patients are able to search relative information, including death rates for specific specialists by using the MyNHS website. However, some of the surgeons have stated that the data may be ‘crude and misleading’, and other critics said vital data is not available in the information which has been released.

The MyNHS tool, which has now been officially launched, is designed to allow both professionals and patients to compare performance data related to various NHS services and consultants.

Patients will have the facility to search for and make comparisons of data on particular surgeons, along with local hospital performance statistics, public health, social care and mental health care.

According to the national medical director at NHS England, Sir Bruce Keogh, transparency will focus the minds of surgeons. He said all surgeons have their patients’ best interests at heart, but in the past the risk during a high risk surgical procedure was only being taken by the patient. He said that it has now become a shared risk between the surgeon and the patient and that will focus the mind, allowing for the most appropriate surgeon to undertake the operation and the decision on the appropriateness of the procedure.

Surgical Data

Individuals will be able to search for consultants by name, location and hospital. A huge amount of data is already available online, however MyNHS has been designed to be more patient-friendly and offers more detail.

There is already data available for adult cardiac surgery for the NHS England, with additional details on the procedure type.

New data will be available on the types of surgery:

• Information linked to neck and head surgery became available on MyNHS on Wednesday

• Information on neurosurgery and upper gastro-intestinal surgery will be released during the first week of December

• The release of data on urogynaecology during the first part of 2015 will increase the number of consultants on the website to almost 5000.

Special surgeons have warned that this move could result in some consultants refusing the more difficult cases.

The president of the Federation of Surgical Specialty Associations, Professor John MacFie, said the release of individual surgeons’ performance data is misleading and crude, and does not include other information such as returns to theatre and the duration of the hospital stay. He said there is anecdotal evidence that the publication of this data has encouraged behaviour which is risk-averse, and this is not in the best interests of the patient.

Professor MacFie said information on mortality rates should only be released once concerns regarding particular surgeons have been fully investigated. He said there were problems with the quality and comparison of data, such as risk adjustment by case, data accuracy and low volumes of data.

He stated that very few deaths are due to only surgical error.

Clinical data firm, Dr Foster, said these databases may be missing around 75% of procedures.

The co-founder of Dr Foster, Roger Taylor, said that three of the audits which have been done thus far have found performance outside the range that was expected.

The chairwoman of the Royal College of Surgeons Patient Liaison Group, Gill Humphrey, said patients will be able to become active participants in their overall care and use the information on the consultant results to have informed conversations with their surgeons and to discuss the potential outcome and recovery procedure from their surgery.

Image Credit: Spirit-Fire

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