Hospital Dr News

Surgeons re-publish performance data online

Heart surgeons are to start publishing surgical outcomes data in the New Year after a three year break caused by a row over funding.

Publishing this data was a key policy under Labour and continued under the Coalition to allow patients more access to information about surgery outcomes and to give them greater choice of where to be treated.

Cardiothoracic surgeons blazed the trail and it was intended that other specialties would follow their lead.

The data was first published as part of a joint project by the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery (SCTS), led then by Sir Bruce Keogh who is now NHS medical director, and the Healthcare Commission, the healthcare regulator which has been replaced by the Care Quality Commission.

The data was updated once but had been left to drift following the closure of the Healthcare Commission in 2009.

The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has declined to continue to fund updates of the data, which cost between £30,000 and £40,000, or to host it on their website.

A CQC spokesman explained that they regulated organisations and not individuals so they did not consider it appropriate to continue to host the cardiothoracic surgeons’ data as the Healthcare Commission had done in the past.

The SCTS approached NHS Choices about publishing the data. But although they are  England’s biggest health website, providing patients with information about hospitals and GPs to enable them to make choices about their health, they too said they were unable to help as they were undergoing a new tendering process and could not take on any new work.

The SCTS has now decided to publish the data on its own website. President Mr James Roxburgh said: “SCTS will be working hard with the Department of Health and the Royal Colleges to ensure we produce a high quality outcomes portal. SCTS are working towards making cardiac surgical outcomes data available on our own website from the New Year. Updates will be posted on the SCTS website.”

Sir Bruce Keogh has indicated that the government will be pressing for a standard web portal to be developed to publish outcomes data for individual teams of consultants across a range of specialties. “I expect to see rapid progress on this,” he said.

Professor Michael Horrocks, vice president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “We welcome the news that the government is taking steps to develop a web portal to publish outcomes data across a range of specialities. The college is committed to promoting transparency within surgery by encouraging surgeons to participate in relevant audits and data collection, much of which is already in place.

“Designing ways to measure the outcomes from across surgery that would give credible and meaningful data is extremely complicated and no one size fits all. We hope the government will continue to engage with the profession whose expertise can help design and deliver relevant outcome measures.”

A Department of Health spokesman said greater transparency across the NHS was a personal priority for health secretary Jeremy Hunt.

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One Response to “Surgeons re-publish performance data online”

  1. Malcolm Morrison says:

    This could be a two-edged sword – or should I say scalpel?!

    We all know how difficult it can be to know what staistics actually mean – particularly if one dose not know how they were collected. So, it will be doubly difficult for ‘your average punter’ to understand the figures – particularly as portrayed by the press!

    I remember being ‘shocked’ by the statement that “the best surgeons have the worst mortality figures” – because they ONLY take on the most difficult cases, often those that have been operated on once or twice by others!

    In cardiac surgey, the ‘end points’ that are ‘measured’ are relatively clear cut; in many other branches of surgery the ‘objective’ of the operation may not be to save life or to restore ‘full function’; but it may relieve symptoms and, thereby, improve the quality of life, sometimes only temporarily.

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