VIDEO: Move to calm death rate fear

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A Sheffield hospitals chief has backed a drive to publish death rates for surgeons - but said the figures need to ‘reflect the risk’ in complex operations.

The statistics, which are being released online for the first time, show how many times a surgeon has carried out a procedure and their mortality rates.

Sheffield's Northern General Hospital

Sheffield's Northern General Hospital

But the move has sparked concern among medics.

Vascular surgeon Robert Lonsdale, based at the Northern General, was one of just six consultants out of almost 500 who opted out of the first batch of figures, citing worries over the data’s accuracy even though his results were ‘within the expected range’.

Dr David Throssell, Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust medical director, said he supported the release of the data, but said: “We want to be sure it’s accurate and presented in a form patients can understand it in.

“It needs to be seen as part of the overall information that patients get about their hospital. If you’re going to put data out there you’ve got to explain it.

“Mortality rates for an individual surgeon are affected by the mix of patients who they treat, so the figures published must be risk-adjusted.

“Data which has not been risk-adjusted should not be used to compare individual surgeons, as it could give a misleading picture.”

He said city surgeons often carried out very complex operations on ‘some of the sickest patients’, affecting performance figures.

Dr Throssell said consultants ‘have their reasons for being uncomfortable’ with publishing the statistics, saying: “It’s not that anybody is trying to hide anything. I suspect in time it will be less of an issue.”