Sunday, June 7, 1998 Published at 16:33 GMT 17:33 UK
Hospitals to publish death rates
As the patient goes under the knife, the surgeon will be under scrutiny
The move to publicise information on surgical death rates comes in the wake of the Bristol heart babies scandal related to the deaths of 29 babies in care.
Patients will be able to compare how hospitals perform after figures have been weighted to take into account relevant medical information on any deaths.
Patients will not be given the right to switch their hospital, nor will the programme include information on the UK's private hospitals.
Drive for standards
Mr Dobson will introduce the annual tables covering surgery for major diseases or conditions in October.
Ministers believe the system will become a powerful tool to raise standards and share information on the National Health Service.
An independent commission for health improvement is also being planned to complement the tables. It will scrutinise service and standards at NHS trusts.
Mr Dobson said: "Patients have a right to expect the best possible treatment in the NHS. In the vast majority of cases they get it.
"The appalling tragedy of Bristol cannot be allowed to happen again.
"These tables will allow us to identify problems at an early stage and act if necessary."
Top doctors want tables
Leading NHS consultants have already called for league tables following the Bristol scandal.
The scandal remained hidden for years. One colleague who suspected the high death rate, carried out his own painstaking research into the pair's performance in order to tip off officials.
He called for tables to be coupled with a peer appraisal system.
Mr Johnson said: "We need proper risk management strategies in hospitals for recording things that go wrong or near-misses so that hospitals can analyse this in a systematic way and make sure they don't happen again."
But Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said care should be taken to ensure the league tables took into account variations in population and other factors.
He said, for example, that mortality rates would be higher in areas with more elderly people.
The Welsh Office and the Northern Ireland Office will consider the issue further before implementing similar policies.