Patients undergoing heart surgery in England and Wales have a greater chance of survival than many other European countries, a report has suggested.

NHS treatment also means patients recover more quickly, according to the study of more than one million cardiac operations in over 20 countries.

The NHS leads the way despite caring for some of Europe’s oldest patients and having a high proportion of operations regarded as urgent, said the study from the European Association for Cardiothoracic Surgery.

Death rates in England are 25% lower than the European average and inpatient days are about 10% shorter.

The European average death rate for coronary artery bypass surgery is 2.4%, but just 1.8% in England and 1.1% in Wales. In Scotland, the figure is 2.2%.

This type of surgery accounts for almost 20,000 operations a year in the UK. Experts predict some 250 extra lives in the UK are saved each year following cardiac surgery compared to the European average.

Today’s report includes data from countries such as France, the Netherlands, Denmark, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Poland, Sweden and Cyprus, as well as China and Hong Kong.

It found shorter stays save the NHS around £6.4 million for coronary artery bypass surgery alone.

David Taggart, president of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland, said surgeons in the UK submitted the most comprehensive cardiac surgery data in Europe.

“This not only demonstrates a strong commitment to quality and transparency but also provides enormous reassurance for patients.

“The results confirm that cardiac surgery in the UK is amongst the very best in Europe and that mortality rates have fallen by half over the past five years as a direct result of the collection, analysis and publication of outcome data.

“Our European partners should be encouraged that this approach is likely to lead to a similar improvement in results.”

John Black, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said: “This excellent data is the culmination of years of hard work carried out by NHS cardiac units.

“As a result of the profession’s dedication, we are now leaders in Europe in the measurement of quality and outcomes of cardiac surgery, an achievement I am sure all other surgical specialties will wish to emulate.”

Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: “The results from the cardiac database are a source of unalloyed good news for the NHS and patients.

“Many lives will have been saved as a result of the improvements behind these figures and it is a tribute to the hard work of NHS staff.

“The NHS often delivers outcomes that are as good and in some cases better than other countries.

“The aim is to bring about improvements in all aspects of care.”