Publishing data on heart surgery survival rates has not put surgeons off from performing high-risk operations, according to new statistics from the Healthcare Commission.
The latest heart surgery survival rates published today show continuing high rates of survival and operation numbers are actually rising, since figures were first published in 2006.
The Commission said it was pleased that the initial fears of publishing data deterring surgeons from performing as many risky operations, had proved unfounded.
Previously, the international EuroSCORE benchmark was used as a way of taking account of the risks involved in the surgery. However, as more people are now expected to survive in the UK than when EuroSCORE was first introduced, the benchmark for the UK introduced last year is a tougher measure.
The statistics are being published on the Commission’s cardiac website, set up in 2006 when heart surgery became the first speciality to publish information on survival. The site is a joint project between the Commission and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland.
When measured against the UK model, there were no units with survival rates that were "worse than expected" and 32 units’ survival rates were "as expected", and five are "better than expected".
The website gives information on over 35,000 heart operations performed between April 2006 and March 2007 and shows survival rates from 37 units for all heart surgery during this period.
The figures show that survival rates have remained consistently high, with no significant change from the previous year.
The national survival rate for all types of heart operations is 96.6%. This is up by 0.1% from last year’s figure of 96.5%.
Between April 2006 and March 2007 there were 20,474 heart bypass operations in the UK. Nationally, 98.32% of patients survived, giving an overall rating of "as expected".
There were 3,522 aortic valve replacement operations carried out during this period, with a survival rate of 98.01%, or "as expected".
Professor Sir Ian Kennedy, chairman of the Healthcare Commission, said: “This project proves that we can successfully bring this kind of information into the public domain to the satisfaction of both patients and those who look after them.
“Some feared that surgeons may take on fewer high-risk operations, but this has not proved to be the case. In fact the opposite is true.
“It is important for other specialities to recognise the benefits to patients that making this information available brings, and to consider making information on their patients’ outcomes available.
“Making this information available has increased patients’ confidence in heart surgeons. It is a fine example for other surgical specialities to follow.”
Leslie Hamilton, president of the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery (SCTS) said: “Cardiothoracic surgeons in the UK have worked hard to collect data on their outcomes and improve the quality of the care they give to their patients.
“The Healthcare Commission’s website shows that the quality of care in the UK is now exceptionally and uniformly good – and better than that in Europe. Patients will find this data reassuring.”