The argument in the West Midlands over interpreting mortality rates is just a taste of the rows that will ensue once the Department of Health starts publishing outcomes data.

Regrettably, there will simply be no way of avoiding two of the pitfalls trusts most fear - misinterpretation of the results, and journalists producing league tables.

While this will be frustrating, perhaps hurtful, for staff who feel they are being accused of failing their patients, trusts need to accept that patients have a right to know.

It is a nonsense for the DH to implore journalists not to organise the data into league tables. Patients are entitled to compare trusts and clinical teams; it is the NHS's responsibility to help them understand what the comparisons mean.