Safe in Their Hands

Guest blog by Gail Beer

Today we learn that survival rates for colon surgery  vary between hospitals and surgeons and that we as a nation do not perform as well as other countries.  There are calls for colorectal surgeons to follow the example of cardiothoracic surgeons and  report their outcomes; an action which following the Bristol Inquiry has had a significant and beneficial effect on mortality rates.

While this  call is  welcome it is  a dreadful indictment of the NHS  that after 13 years of cardiothoracic reporting  we are not  reporting outcomes  for individual surgeons for all forms of surgery. Neither is the nation demanding to know  how competent and  safe the surgeon they or their loved ones might be  referred to actually is. In our increasingly technological world filled with a wealth of information we are more likely to know the performance of our car than our doctor.

In some other countries performance is rightly or wrongly driven by competition, health insurers and the insured themselves.  Our health system does not drive performance using the same levers, but we have no less right to good outcomes that are comparable with other developed nations.  There are undoubtedly areas where we outperform the rest of the world and we need to be celebrating our successes.

It is time that all individual surgeons’ outcomes were made publically available and benchmarked for all to see. This should hold no fear for surgeons,  NHS Trusts or the private sector, they should welcome such a development that  holds  them  accountable to the public for their outcomes and  demonstrates that we are safe in their hands.

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