Health Secretary-Surgeons Who Refuse to Publish Their Performance Data Should Be Publicly Named

14 June 2013

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Health Secretary-Surgeons Who Refuse to Publish Their Performance Data Should Be Publicly Named

Surgeons who refuse to publish their performance data including mortality rates should be publicly named, says the health secretary. This move is being seen by ministers as a critical step in making the NHS more transparent. Jeremy Hunt promised to take tough action after it emerged doctors could block the release of the information under the Data Protection Act.

The publication of surgery-specific data was first called for in 2001 by Prof Sir Ian Kennedy, who chaired the inquiry into the excessive number of deaths of babies undergoing heart surgery in Bristol. Since this incident, only heart surgeons have published data and this has been down to an individual level.

Some doctors have been resistant to widening publication of data for nine surgical specialities and cardiology, as there is a fear that it may give a misleading impression. Those doctors that take on the most difficult and complex cases may look to be performing worse, when in fact they could be the leading specialists in their field. But while doctors can block the publication of the data to the public it does not mean the details, including mortality rates, are hidden from regulators.

So far 4% of surgeons contacted by NHS England have said they will and do exercise their right to block the release of information and performance data. Mr Hunt said: "Subject to proper risk adjustment of the data there can be no valid reason why it should not be published. "In an era of public concern over patient safety issues this will be a major step forward in restoring public confidence."

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