NHS Choices is to start publishing hospitals’ standardised mortality ratios on its website.

The government’s flagship health site already publishes generalised mortality rates for heart surgery and operations such as hip and knee surgery. But within the next few weeks, doctors and patients will be able to access much more specific information.

The HSMR figures will show how many people died, in comparison with how many would be expected to die.

The Department of Health says the information is intended to help patients choose hospitals for treatment and to help doctors see how well their peers are performing.

Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director said: “It is a moral and social duty for all healthcare organisations to know what they are doing and how well they are doing it.

“The HSMR is one of the many measures to help them do this, but it is not enough on its own. The HSMR is an aggregate measure of mortality for the organisation and hence a rather blunt, but useful, indicator of trouble.”

Researchers from Birmingham University argued in the BMJ last month that using hospitals’ standardised mortality ratios to sort “good” hospitals from “bad” hospitals was unfair.

The research highlighted that hospitals treating more seriously ill patients who have a higher risk of mortality than average are unjustly represented.

However, NHS Choices has been instructed by the DH to publish reliable information relating to the HSMRs to help the public and boards understand their strengths and weaknesses.

The move comes shortly after the investigation into failing at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust identified exceptionally high mortality rates.

The Healthcare Commission concluded that there were more than 400 deaths than would have been expected at the hospital.

Sir Bruce continued: “I am personally committed to sharing information with the public and patients on effectiveness, safety and patient experience of our health services.

“On top of this, as part of a series of steps that will lead to greater transparency and sharing of information, I have also asked them to develop a programme to publish an additional set of more than 250 more focused measures of quality care, which have been approved by the new National Quality Board for Health and Social Care.”

Link: NHS Choices

Related article: Mid Staffs death rates-poor care not poor data