Patients at a hospital will now be able to see how well their doctor is performing thanks to published ratings of consultants.
The University Hospital of South Manchester is to become the first hospital trust in the country to show results of each individual consultant, measured against national standards, and what their patients say about them.
UHSM will begin with its cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons, supplying details of how they did and what their patients said before extending to all its 250 consultants across all specialties by the end of the year.
Up-to-the-minute details will be posted on the trust’s website so patients can make informed choices about who they want to treat and care for them, said the trust.
UHSM joined forces with researchers Picker Institute Europe to devise the system.
Sir Donald Irvine, chairman of the institute and former president of the General Medical Council, said: “People have a right to know how good their doctors are, and reviews of performance should take account of the views and experience of other patients.
“UHSM is to be commended for embracing a leading-edge approach that both gives patients a voice in assessing doctors, and makes information on performance as accessible to the public as to professions.
“This has the potential to revolutionise patients’ ability to choose their doctors, and it is a step that other hospital trusts would be wise to follow. This way lies the future.”
UHSM cardiac surgeon Ben Bridgewater said: “Most doctors have always welcomed transparency. The problem in the past has been about credibly and fairly producing the metrics and reporting them in real time so doctors, and now patients, can review performance.
“In cardiac and thoracic surgery, we surgeons have been pushing for weaknesses to be improved so that we can give our patients the best possible service and outcome. After all, at the end of the day it’s our names above the bed.”
The Picker Institute model for reliably reporting what patients think about the care they have received has been piloted by colleagues in neighbouring Stockport Foundation Trust with which South Manchester has a close working partnership.
Andrew Sinclair, consultant urologist at Stockport, believes a systematic approach to measuring patient experiences enables doctors to understand where there are shortcomings in their services so that things can be improved.
“By adding to that information on the outcome of their treatments, it will be possible for patients to choose their doctors. I believe the whole process will inevitably improve patient care.”
Paul Flynn, chair of the British Medical Association’s consultants committee, said: “We support attempts to give patients meaningful, useful information about NHS services and the staff responsible for their care. It will be interesting to see how this is achieved in South Manchester.
“Publishing data for individual consultants is complex. Some consultants may take on higher-risk cases that would lead to raised mortality rates. Some patients will have multiple health problems which can increase the likelihood of complications.
“Most consultants now work in teams. Patients’ experiences are obviously highly subjective and a range of factors can affect the feedback they provide.
“We also need to keep in mind that different specialties have very different ways of working. Whereas there are already robust ways of comparing performance in specialties such as cardiothoracic surgery, in other areas it is much harder to gather data about outcomes that will be meaningful to patients.
“It is critical that any information provided is accurate and in context. If not, it will be misleading and cause unnecessary anxiety to patients.”
13 June 2013