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Response to The BMJ paper on public reporting of individual surgeons outcomes

03 May 2018

A study published in The BMJ today has found that there is no evidence that publishing patient death rates for individual bowel surgeons in England has led to risk averse behaviour or ‘gaming’ of data.

The results also show that the introduction of public reporting of individual surgeons’ outcomes coincided with a substantial reduction in mortality for patients having non-emergency (“elective” or “scheduled”) bowel cancer surgery.

Responding to the study, Professor Derek Alderson, President of the Royal College of Surgeons, said:

“The RCS has supported the publication of individual surgeons’ results as a way of improving the quality and safety for patients undergoing surgery. It is important that patients know that as a profession we are robustly scrutinising our surgery and seeking to understand our results to improve the care we provide.

“There has however been concern in some quarters that reporting the outcomes of individual surgeons could discourage some from offering surgery to high-risk patients. Today’s study is reassuring as it did not find any evidence of risk-averse patient selection following the introduction of public reporting of outcomes after bowel cancer surgery. 

“The fact that surgical mortality decreased significantly following the public reporting of individual colorectal cancer surgeons’ outcomes further underlines the importance of a culture of transparency and openness in improving the overall care of patients.” 

In addition, Professor James Hill, President of the Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI) and lead clinician on the study, said:

“Providing safe and effective surgical care requires team work. However, the publication of surgical outcomes turns the spotlight on individual surgeons. The improvements that we have seen following the introduction of public reporting of outcomes of planned bowel cancer surgery demonstrate that surgeons have an important role in galvanising the entire team involved in managing patients before, and after this major surgical procedure.”

Notes to editors

1. The Royal College of Surgeons of England is a professional membership organisation and registered charity, which exists to advance surgical standards and improve patient care.

2. The Association of Coloproctology of Great Britain and Ireland (ACPGBI) is a group of 1000+ surgeons, nurses, and allied health professionals who advance the knowledge and treatment of bowel diseases in Britain and Ireland.

3. For more information, please contact the RCS Press Office: Telephone: 020 7869 6047/6052; Email:; For out of hours media enquiries: 07966 486832.

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