NHS England recently released the MyNHS tool, which outlines data about NHS facilities and services. According to the MyNHS website, the new tool has been launched to “support transparency and drive equality.” A number of different services and NHS facilities are covered by MyNHS, including Hospitals, Social Care, Mental Health Hospitals and individual data on surgeries carried out by Consultants. The information contained on the site is quite extensive; for example, hospitals are judged on several metrics including inspection ratings from the Care Quality Commission, Waiting Times and Infection Control and Cleanliness.
There have been a number of factors that led to the creation of MyNHS, one of which was the Francis Inquiry. Robert Francis QC led the enquiry, which investigated the failings at Staffordshire Hospital between 2005 and 2009. During this time, poor levels of care led to high mortality rates at the hospital. The Inquiry opened in November 2010, partially as a result of campaigns by individuals such as Julie Bailey, whose mother had died in the Hospital in 2007. The inquiry was very damning and revealed a number of failings, one of which was that some of the staff had tried to ‘cover up’ mistakes made at that time. Robert Francis QC made a total of 290 recommendations, saying that the NHS had to “fundamentally change”; and many of his recommendations revolved around increased transparency, something that NHS England is trying to achieve with MyNHS.
The public can now view data on individual surgeons in specialisms including adult cardiac surgery, orthopaedic surgery and vascular surgery. Responses to the recently released data on surgeons has been mixed – notable supporters include Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt and Sir Bruce Keogh, the National Medical Director of NHS England. Sir Bruce recently said that this new level of transparency will help the surgeons to ‘focus’: “… previously the risk in a high risk operation has only been taken by the patient. Now it’s shared between the patient and the surgeon and that really focuses the mind about the appropriateness of surgery for that particular individual, and well functioning surgery groups will share between them that risk and ensure that the most appropriate surgeon does the operation.”
However, others feel that the publishing of this data may do more damage than good. Federation of Surgical Specialty Associations President Prof. John MacFie, said, “There is now good anecdotal evidence that shows publishing this data has encouraged risk-averse behaviour, which is not in the interest of patients.” He also said that, “The publication of individual surgeons’ performance data is crude and can be misleading, and does not include essential information such as duration of hospital stay and returns to theatre.” With so many factors affecting the outcome of an operation, and additional risks and health complications that only the surgeons and their particular patient may be aware of, it’s hard to see how a few basic figures can paint the full picture. Only time will tell whether this just been another expensive experiment for the NHS, or if it will actually start to improve the standards of healthcare across the country.