The Guardian has released data on death rates following vascular surgery onto its datablog.

The newspaper carried out a large-scale Freedom of Information request to obtain the data on vascular surgery from 116 hospital trusts.

The FOI focused on the data collected by surgeons themselves as opposed to the data that is fed into the Hospital Episodes Statistics, analysed and published as Hospital Standardised Mortality Ratios by NHS Choices and Dr Foster.

The Guardian points out that the detailed data for a specific procedure – the repair of abdominal aortic aneurysm – may bear little relationship to the HSMR given for trusts in ‘choice’ information.

It also shows that, in line with other studies, units that carry out a large number of specialist procedures appear to have better outcomes than those that carry out only a few every year.

So, the Guardian says data from Scarborough General Hospital in Yorkshire showed that around 29% of patients who had routine AAA surgery from 2006-08 died, while the national average was just 4%.

However, NHS Choices says the hospital’s outcomes are “as expected”, with the number of people dying after operations being “similar to the national average". Scarborough has stopped performing routine AAA surgery.

The Guardian says similar results are likely to be found in every other branch of medicine, with the exception of heart surgery, where surgeons have to collect and publish their individual results following the Bristol heart babies’ scandal in the 1990s.

It says that doctors are unlikely to know how well they are performing and whether they are more likely than their colleagues to “kill or cure their patients” because of the widespread failure to collect information.

Link: Guardian Datablog