Heart surgeons have criticised other specialities for failing to collect the data on deaths and other treatment outcomes that may help patients decide where to go for treatment.

A new report from the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery – ‘maintaining patients’ trust: modern, medical professionalism’ – says that the NHS is dragging its feet when it comes to providing reliable, independent and accessible information to patients.

Heart surgeons have been collecting mortality data since the Kennedy Inquiry into the Bristol ‘heart babies’ scandal.

This found that some babies died after heart surgery when they might have survived if they had been treated by more skilled surgeons elsewhere. It also highlighted the difficulties in obtaining good, comparative information that might alerted a range of bodies to what was going on.

The Society’s report says that access to reliable information protects and informs patients by explaining variance and preventing poor practice.

It says that public reporting at hospital and individual surgeon level has resulted in a 50% improvement in risk adjusted mortality rates for cardiac surgery and has demonstrated that over 99% of cardiac surgeons are performing a satisfactory level.

It therefore urges those yet to engage in audit to consider customising the SCTS template, with publication of data for use within their own speciality.

In addition it says that not only does the collection of data improve patient choice but that clinical outcome measurement is good value for money.

The report estimates that the cost of data collection for cardiac surgery in England is £1.5m a year (0.6% of total spend on cardiac surgery) but that quality improvements brought in as results have achieved £5m savings in bed days for coronary artery bypass patients alone.

It calls on the Department of Health to consider dramatically increasing the budget currently allocated to supporting clinical audits to enable more associations to follow suit.

Ben Bridgewater, lead author of the report and consultant cardiac surgeon at the University Hospital of South Manchester, said: “The NHS is littered with repeated failures of clinical governance and the medical profession must respond.

“Cardiac surgeons were forced to act after the Bristol inquiry and have subsequently proven that public accountability drives up standards of patient care while reducing costs as areas of substandard practice are resolved.

He added: “Giving access to appropriate information will reassure the public and allow patients to make informed decisions about their care, but currently the NHS and the medical profession are failing to deliver.”