With recent scandals involving a lack of transparency we at Neil Hudgell Solicitors welcome the disclosure of NHS surgeons’ mortality rates. It can only be right that patients undergoing surgery are able to access these details to ensure they are appraised of sufficient information to decide whether to proceed with surgery or not.
The disclosure of this information must however be placed in context. Those surgeons who are most experienced may not have the ‘best’ mortality rates because they undertake more complex surgery on patients with significant health issues. Further a surgeon who only undertakes a small number of surgeries may have a high mortality rate if only one surgery results in the death of a patient, in circumstances where that death was unavoidable. It is therefore important that hospitals and surgeons can quickly put these figures into context for patients so that the patient can make an informed decision.
Whilst disclosure of mortality rates is a step forward, the figures do not take into account the circumstances where patients suffer significant complications following surgery, which whilst not being fatal, can have life changing consequences for patients. It therefore remains vital that hospitals closely monitor all significant complications following surgery to ensure that over reliance on death rate statistics as a measure of performance does not arise resulting in a failure to spot other serious issues with performance of not only the surgeons, but their supporting team.