Page last updated at 12:35 GMT, Thursday, 29 May 2008 13:35 UK

NHS to reveal surgery death rates

Data on different kinds of surgery will be released

The NHS is set to publish hospitals' mortality rates for certain kinds of surgery, it has been revealed.

It is part of a move to provide information on the outcomes of a range of common operations, such as hip and knee replacements.

However death rates will be just one of a range of planned measures, with surgeons looking at ways of measuring quality of life outcomes too.

The data is due to appear on the NHS Choices website from September.

Measuring the right things is vital if patients are to get useful information on the outcomes for their surgery
Royal College of Surgeons spokesman

The Department of Health is keen to increase the information available to clinicians and patients about how different hospitals perform.

The department says its priority is to help doctors see how their peers are performing, and see how they can improve their own work.

But patients will also be able to use the data to select which hospital they would have their own operation at.

Bristol baby deaths

Data on the death rates for heart surgery is already available.

There had been pressure to release the information since the Bristol Royal Infirmary baby heart death scandal, when surgeons with higher than average death rates continued to operate on children.

It is relatively straightforward to show how successful heart ops are because they are so serious, and often a matter of life or death.

However, procedures such as hip replacements - and oesophageal and aortic aneurysm surgery which is also to be reported on - are less simple to measure as success is determined to a large degree by a patient's experience.

For this reason, the Royal College of Surgeons is looking at how such subjective information can be quantified in an objective way.

A spokesman for the Royal College of Surgeons said: "Measuring the right things is vital if patients are to get useful information on the outcomes for their surgery.

"This will differ from operation to operation and, for many conditions, quality of life will be a more meaningful measure than mortality."

"To be meaningful this will include not just statistics but patient points of view too and will take time to perfect."

The move to publish quality data, including death rates, is featured in health minister Lord Darzi's review of the future of the NHS.

A Department of Health spokesman said: "It is hoped that this work will mark a turning point in providing meaningful and clinically relevant information on care quality to clinical staff throughout the NHS."

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