Publishing consultant mortality data 'pointless', warns top GP

Publication of mortality rates for individual hospital consultants by NHS England is 'absolutely pointless' because GPs cannot refer to named doctors, a senior London GP has warned.

Dr Tony Grewal: consultant data are pointless
Dr Tony Grewal: consultant data are pointless

NHS England began publishing mortality rates for consultants across ten specialties from Friday 28 June, calling the move a 'major breakthrough in NHS transparency'.

Data covering operations and other procedures by around 3,500 hospital consultants will be published on the NHS Choices website in stages up to autumn this year.

The data will reveal 'the number of times a consultant has carried out a procedure, mortality rates and whether clinical outcomes for each consultant are within expected limits'.

NHS England national medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh said: 'We know from our experience with heart surgery that putting this information into the public domain can help drive up standards. That means more patients surviving operations and there is no greater prize than that.'

But Londonwide LMCs medical director Dr Tony Grewal said: 'This is another pointless example of information that has no use. We cannot refer to individual consultants any more. So it’s absolutely pointless.

'If you publish mortality data for departments, that might make some sense in informing patient choice. It shows how detatched from reality these people are from what a referral involves these days.'

He said commissioners might want to look at the information to see if departments were 'harbouring someone of challenged competence'.

But he pointed out that data could easily be misunderstood by patients or those in the health service. 'A person may have worse figures if they work weekends when no other staff are on, for example, rather than someone who works Mondays and only sees a carefully selected group.'

Dr Grewal added: 'It is almost inevitable they will publish similar data on GPs, but people’s choice of GP is very rarely based on that sort of assessment of quality or delivery. It's very much like banking habits - you bank there because you always have and it's a pain to change. Only a very small proportion are unhappy and will wish to change.'

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