Surgeons’ “report card” data: False reporting as unprofessional conduct?

The Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery of Great Britain and Ireland has been well known for its publication of surgical outcomes data at the individual surgeon level. Data available online may include number and type of operations performed, in-hospital mortality rate (risk adjusted) and average patient risk profile.

The online data for one surgeon now appears to be unavailable, pending local data validation. That phrase seems to suggest some doubt about the reliability of the submitted data, as has been reported in the UK Telegraph newspaper. An investigation by the General Medical Council remains incomplete.

The Society is reported to have commented as follows:

A spokesman for the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery said the public should still have faith in the date collected by its National Adult Cardiac Surgery Audit. She said: “We have been actively collecting, analysing and benchmarking data since as early as 1977, and we are international leaders in the field, having published data down to individual surgeon level since 2005.

“The public should be reassured that there are systems in place whereby the speciality association will contact individuals and their trust in advance of publication to help them check and validate their data for accuracy. For surgeons and their teams, it is important that data are risk adjusted appropriately and that steps are taken to ensure the data are accurate prior to publication to avoid misleading patients and the public.”

The society added that the database has shown a 25 per cent reduction in deaths following heart surgery since 2003.

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