Published: 07/11/2002, Volume II2, No. 5830 Page 9

Some trusts providing cardiac surgery are failing to supply the necessary data needed to accurately assess the clinical performance of their units, according to the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons.

The claims by society president Colin Hilton follow publication by the Society of Mortality results for coronary surgery at individual units across the country.

The national adult cardiac surgical database says the percentage of patient deaths was just 2.1 per cent from 1999-2001 in the UK, compared to 2.6 per cent in the US.

But Mr Hilton said there were difficulties in getting hold of 'complete and accurate' data for risk stratification.

Without the data, the units with higher mortality rates could not argue that the figures were the result of carrying out more complicated and risky surgery.

'There are deficiencies even from well-supported centres, making risk-adjusted analyses difficult and less reliable than we would like, ' he said.

'This represents a real problem for the surgeon as an apparently higher-than-average mortality may only be defended by accurate risk stratification of the surgeon's case mix.'

The report says in August this year, 14 per cent of the 42 hospitals offering cardiac surgery in the UK had no dedicated cardiac surgical data manager. A further 20 per cent of hospitals had a parttime manager in the role.

Bruce Keogh, the society's secretary and co-ordinator of the UK cardiac surgical register, said many surgeons were still 'very, very concerned' about the use of league tables - particularly when tables for individual surgeons are published in 2004.

Dr Roger Boyle, national director of heart disease, understood the concerns but he said: 'It is not so much a question about whether we published this information but about how we do. That is an issue we are working on.'

National adult cardiac surgical database report 2000-01. Dendrite Clinical Systems Ltd. 01491411 288.£50.