For the first time in the world a government is ready to publish comparative figures for medical teams at rival hospitals.
Death rates of patients undergoing major surgeries at NHS hospitals are to be published on the Internet. The British government hopes the move will help patients to decide on hospitals where their lives are least at risk.
AdvertisementThere could be large variations in mortality rates among NHS trusts for procedures including hip and knee replacements.
Also, death rates could be at a disproportionately high level in hospitals where fewer operations are performed and surgeons do not have good opportunities to improve.
The government believes that publishing the figures will see improvement of standards in badly performing trusts or even a halt in areas of surgery where they are lagging behind.
Results will be given for hospital units and not for individual surgeons.
However, health minister Ben Bradshaw said patients should eventually be able to compare individual surgeons and GPs.
The first data is expected to be published on the NHS Choices website over the summer.
Surgeons had earlier objected to mortality rates being published because it may discourage them from performing challenging operations and lead to lives being lost.
However, an experiment by the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons, wherein mortality rates were published for heart bypass operations, revealed that surgeons have taken on more risky cases without any increase in the death rate.
It is believed, fallout of this exercise will be that ultimately, trusts may have a scorecard that would measure performance in each speciality.
An inquiry into the deaths of children at Bristol Royal Infirmary ten days ago revealed how poor practice continued because mortality rates were not disclosed.