Outcomes data is information about the results of surgery that can be published and used by surgeons, patients and hospitals to ultimately improve safety and quality. The government in 2013 made a commitment to produce individual surgeons’ outcome data, from national clinical audits. In 2013, the Royal College of Surgeons published the first set of consultant outcomes and the surgical profession has now released consultant outcomes data for the second consecutive year. This process is being overseen by the Healthcare Quality Improvement Partnership (HQIP) and involves the College and surgical specialty associations. The release of accurate data on surgical outcomes will empower patients by providing more public information about the quality of their care.
Each of the surgical specialty associations carry out clinical audits of the work of their member surgeons and of procedures carried out in the UK. These collections of information are sometimes called registers.
A number of audits and registers are well established. For example, the UK National Adult Cardiac Surgery Audit has been running since 2005, and the orthopaedic audit, known as the National Joint Registry, has been running for eleven years. Others, for example, the audit of bariatric surgery (for obesity), are newer.
The data has been validated and analysed by the surgical specialty associations to work out the appropriate standard for a surgeon, and to define acceptable and unacceptable variation from this standard.
Those surgeons that are far from reaching this standard, or are doing much better than it, are described as outliers (ie they are out of the ordinary from the mean average).
The data has been scrutinised by the specialty associations to pick up any potential areas of poor performance. Where necessary, there has been further investigation by the surgeon’s employing Trust.