A team of senior clinicians has found that Welsh and English hospital mortality indicators are not comparible and has called for a new system for Welsh hospitals only to be in place by the autumn.
Health Minister Mark Drakeford asked a team of senior clinicians, information specialists and patient representatives to examine whether the continued use of current mortality indicators covering Wales and England was clinically meaningful.
The 'Transaperency Taskforce' team was led by Dr Chris Jones, the deputy chief medical officer. It concluded that risk-adjusted hospital mortality rates (RAMI) cannot be used to compare the quality of care between different healthcare systems.
“To be useful in identifying what is really happening, mortality figures need to be monitored and published at a number of levels within a single health service," said Dr Jones. "No one way of measuring mortality gives a clear picture of the overall position within a hospital or the whole system.
“We therefore suggest that the Welsh Government works closely with health boards to implement a new system relating to Welsh hospitals only, to be implemented by this autumn,” he added.
The Taskforce's findings on mortality rates echo the Government Statistical Service’s conclusion that certain hospital mortality indicators are not comparable between countries.
Caution about use of such figures was recently expressed by Professor Nick Black, an academic leading an official review into the use of mortality indicators commissioned by the Department of Health in England.
The report recommends that mortality measures are treated with caution, and should always be published and considered alongside more direct measures of service quality, such as patient feedback and untoward incidents.
Calls for data to be easier to find and understand for patients
The Transparency Taskforce findings published today (March 5) also call for more clinical data to be made easily available to patients in Wales.
Taskforce leader Dr Chris Jones said: “The taskforce report recognises that the NHS in Wales has already taken significant steps to become more transparent, such as the introduction of the My Local Health Service website which offers clear and easy to understand data about the Welsh NHS.
“However, it is clear that some of the information currently available is too technical, and too hard to find and use," added Dr Jones.