Publishing League Tables Could Stop Surgeons Taking on High-Risk Procedures

14th August 2014

Stephen Westaby, a consultant cardiac surgeon at the John Radcliffe Hospital in Oxford, says that plans to release death rate lists could result in consultants putting more focus on their own reputations rather than the needs of patients, and could see more doctors turning away difficult cases from fear of damaging their name.

The government is trying to work towards a more transparent NHS and this is one way that they seek to do so. The league tables aim to give patients more information into the performance rate of each surgeon so that they can see which ones are outperforming their peers.

If they are published, patients will be able to see the number of times a surgeon has carried out a procedure, their death rates and whether they are performing as expected.

Stephen Westaby, however, believes that publishing these lists does not improve patient choice or the competency of surgeons but just records a death under a doctor, instead of seeking to understand the cause of the mortality.

From a patients’ point of view, publishing this data could provide reassurance for those who have to undergo more complicated procedures. By being able to see how many times the surgeon has completed the procedure and their success rate, patients are offered piece of mind to know that they are in experienced hands.

Patients may not feel comfortable being operated on by those surgeons who have little or no experience in a particular procedure – especially procedures with higher perceived risks – and if there is the option to choose a more skilled doctor, shouldn’t they be entitled to this information?

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