NHS hospitals in England are to publish information on patient death rates and doctors are to be made more accountable for their performance under a set of radical measures unveiled by the Department of Health.
The moves are designed to increase public confidence in NHS hospitals and doctors in the wake of a series of incidents including the Bristol heart babies scandal when 29 children died following surgery at the hands of two doctors.
From October, English hospitals will be forced to publish league tables showing patient death rates following certain operations.
Tables will also cover other clinical issues such as the length of time a hip replacement lasts after surgery. They will be risk adjusted according to individual circumstances and patients will be able to compare how hospitals perform. However, they will not be able to switch hospitals and the tables will not cover private hospitals.
The tables are part of a wide ranging programme of reforms announced by Health secretary Frank Dobson, aimed at raising public confidence. From next year, hospital doctors will be required to take part in a national audit programme relevant to their speciality and have their performance monitored. Doctors who fall short of national average performances will be forced to undertake additional training. Where unacceptable levels of mortality occur, they will be stopped from performing operations. But the results from the audit programme will not be made public.
Other initiatives announced by the minister included:
• The establishment of a Commission for Health Improvement, doctors who will visit every NHS Trust to investigate concerns about clinical quality.
• The scrapping of the Conservative’s efficiency index and replacement with a National Performance Framework to monitor how surgery impacts on health generally.
• The development of a new information technology strategy to ensure patients are given full information on clinical care.