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Call for surgeon league table

6th December 2012

League tables highlighting the performances of individual surgeons are set to be published within the next two years.

surgeonatwork

NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh, a former heart surgeon, said the step will force clinicians to focus on their performance and get help when they fall below acceptable levels.

However critics, including the British Medical Association, fear it will mean some surgeons being reluctant to tackle complicated cases.

The plan was first suggested in 2001 by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, who chaired the inquiry into the deaths of babies undergoing heart surgery in Bristol, but not introduced at the time.

However, Sir Bruce believes now is the right time, pointing to evidence that publishing outcomes in cardiac surgery has improved results.

He says a roll out of publication of individual surgeons’ results in England will help drive clinical outcomes.

“It encourages you to really consider whether you are operating on the right patients and doing the right operation at the right time,” he added.

While the BMA supports measures intended to improve outcomes and recognises the need for patients to have the information they need about the surgeon operating on them, it has concerns that simply publishing mortality figures could be misleading.

It said: “Some surgeons are deterred from taking on very complex, and therefore high risk procedures, because published simplistic league tables count against them.”

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt backs the plan but the Welsh government has expressed concerns over league tables and there are no plans to introduce such a measure in Scotland.

 

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