19 November

Having surgery is one of the most daunting procedures we can put our body under, mentally and physically. But would it make you feel any better if you could check how good your surgeon was before the ordeal?

The NHS has officially launched the MyNHS tool for patients to use in search of data, about who they deal with in regards to their medical concerns. The latest feature added to the tool is checking the stats of their surgeons. Patients can now search on their surgeons to see their surgeon’s data, and skills in regards to operations they have performed.

We wondered that although this may be a positive for the patient in question, would this not just generate hysteria? Patients seem to be placed in a vulnerable position as it is when undergoing surgery. Would releasing statistics really benefit a patient in a susceptible state?

If a patient did feel frightened (as we would all expect) would seeing low numbers do any good?

Of course, we fully understand that on the other hand, at least the patient would know. And surely, if the surgeon is dealing with their life, surely the patient has every right to know?

It has been stated that most of this information has already been available to patients, however the NHS is hoping that this allows patients to feel more confident and entrusted.

NHS England’s national medical director, Sir Bruce Keogh had supported the new release of open information:

“Previously the risk in a high risk operation has only been taken by the patient. Now it’s shared between the patient and the surgeon and that really focuses the mind about the appropriateness of surgery for that particular individual, and well-functioning surgery groups will share between them that risk and ensure that the most appropriate surgeon does the operation.”

 

The BBC ran this news, and stated the new features that will be added are:

New data on different types of surgery:

  • Information on head and neck surgery was published for the first time on MyNHS on Wednesday
  • New information on upper gastro-intestinal surgery and neurosurgery will be published in the first week of December
  • The publication of data on urogynaecology in early 2015 will take the total number of consultants on MyNHS to just under 5,000[1]

The aim seems to be to help patients feel more included in their procedures, and create a more open relationship with their surgeons.

However, as we have realised, we can imagine there would be two sides to view this information. Prof John MacFie, president of the Federation of Surgical Specialty Associations, said:

“The publication of individual surgeons’ performance data is crude and can be misleading, and does not include essential information such as duration of hospital stay and returns to theatre…There is now good anecdotal evidence that shows publishing this data has encouraged risk-averse behaviour, which is not in the interest of patients…Data on mortality rates should only be published after concerns about an individual surgeon had been investigated.”[2]

We can understand the negative and postivie impacts of the MyNHS tool. At the very least we can appreciate the NHS allowing the public access to further information. And some say this method allows patients a better chance to discuss and understand their surgery, and the likely outcomes of their recovery.

 

However, we want to hear your thoughts. What do you think this could do for patients? Or, even for surgeons?

 

 

[1] BBC News, (2014). NHS publishes surgeon outcomes data. Available at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-30094261 [Accessed 19 Nov. 2014].

[2] Ibid

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