Trust data is 'not accurate enough' to monitor the performance of individual consultants, the Royal College of Physicians has warned.
Hospital episode statistics, designed for administrative and financial purposes, do not reflect the current working practices of doctors, according to a pilot scheme commissioned by the Department of Health for England and the Welsh Assembly for Wales.
The report calls into question the accuracy of the information that underpins payment by results. Data shortfalls included allocating activity to the wrong consultant, inaccurate recording of patients' length of stay and failure to collect and record all relevant information.
Dr Giles P Croft, who led the research, told HSJ: 'The accuracy of coding is going to have to improve because trusts are going to get paid on the basis of how accurate their coding is.'
HES are used to inform PbR by measuring activity. But labelling this data with the identity of consultants involved in an episode of patient care is not enough to make it able to monitor complex clinical information or doctors' performance, the report says.
The Audit Commission and chief medical officer for England Sir Liam Donaldson have called for moves to publish performance data for individual consultants.
But doctors surveyed for the
college's report were suspicious of HES and its equivalent in Wales, the patient episode database,
with 80 per cent having 'little or no confidence' that the information was an accurate reflection of their work.
The majority had not seen locally coded results of their inpatient and day case activity. However, 75 per cent of the 1,300 doctors who took part in the project said the data turned out to be more useful than they had expected.
Trusts should encourage consultants to 'get involved in the use of this data and validation of the data that is in their name', Dr Croft said.
'There are issues that can be improved at local level, but if the overall intention is to monitor the performance of individual clinicians then this particular dataset is not [sufficient] unless it is redesigned. We need electronic patient records to do that.'