New NHS commissioner wants data published by next summer
Plans to publish data outlining the performance of individual surgeons in the NHS look set to go ahead earlier than expected after the new NHS commissioner threw its weight behind the concept.
The NHS Commissioning Board, the body formally established in October as part of the Government’s health reforms and charged with determining how NHS funds are spent, today published its planning guidance for 2013/14.
Within this guidance, the NHS Commissioning Board announced plans to publish clinical quality measures and survival rates for consultants practising in a number of specialties – including cardiac, vascular, orthopaedic and head and neck surgery – by summer 2013.
Publication of the data will be made part of the NHS Standard Contract from 2014/15 to allow for comparisons across hospitals.
The board describes the move as a “ground-breaking step” towards ensuring patient choice and competition.
Earlier this month, Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director of the NHS Commissioning Board, said he believes that publishing data about surgeons’ outcomes would encourage clinicians to focus on their performance and seek help when surgical practice falls below acceptable standards. He said at the time that the data could be published within two years.
But critics of the idea say that the data paints a distorted picture because more skilled surgeons often take on more complicated – and risky – procedures and would be placed down the tables unfairly.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association, said that while the organisation supports measures that will give patients more information about health outcomes, there is “more to be done” to ensure data about consultants’ performance is “meaningful”.
He said: “Basic mortality figures alone could mislead patients because they fail to take into account other factors that might have contributed to the death of a patient.”
Today’s guidance also set out proposals for the NHS to move towards routine services being available seven days a week.
The NHS Commissioning Board is to establish a forum which will seek to identify how best to make this possible, which is due to report back in autumn 2013.
Porter described the proposals for a seven-day service as “too crude” and failing to take into account “the resources, investment and flexibility that will be needed to achieve this”.