Hospital public relations departments have given the Department of Health a mixed review after it published mortality rates for four kinds of operation last week.

The DH press release said the standardised mortality rates for four different procedures should not be used to compile a league table of deadly hospitals. But several national newspapers and the BBC spotlighted the trusts with the highest mortality scores.

The chief press officer at one of the "named and shamed" trusts hit out, saying: "If the numbers don't mean anything, why give them to journalists?"

He said trusts were warned of the impending publication of data showing whether they were within the expected range, although there was confusion as to whether the under-lying figures would be published.

The figures were published, showing there was significant variation between trusts but none was outside the expected range.

But elsewhere there was praise for the support the department gave to trusts as they ventured into the brave new world of the informed patient.

However, Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals foundation trust head of communications Jason Hill told HSJ: "NHS Choices were very good. We asked them to call our local press to explain the procedure and they were more than happy to get their experts to explain how the figures were worked out."

"The figures were quite confusing," Mr Hill added.

"Hopefully, it will be a smoother ride next time, once people get used to seeing performance data out there."