Consultants’ warning over adverse events publishing

Plans to publish doctors’ adverse events in the independent sector have brought a strong warning from the organisation representing the professional interests of over 15,000 private consultants.

The Federation of Independent Practitioner Organisations (FIPO), which gives a voice to specialists via their specialty organisations, stressed the importance of advising caution when making quality judgements based on this information.

In a statement to Independent Practitioner Today, it said while it welcomed the intention of the Private Healthcare Information Net­work (PHIN) to soon publish some adverse events at hospital level, including infection rates for certain procedures, ‘there still remains much work to be done on the accuracy and completeness of data’.

FIPO said: ‘Individual consultants, and especially expert senior consultants, are asked to deal with the most complex problems with the least straightforward outcomes. Additionally, private sector volumes are low. 

‘Despite ongoing work to attain robust and mature information, the significance of any judgements based at individual consultant level would be questionable. 

‘How might patients be reasonably expected to interpret and understand raw data presented to them? The implications for expert senior consultants who attract an extremely complex caseload are obvious.’

FIPO said it was supportive of the provision of accurate and relevant information to help to drive safety and quality in private healthcare, hopefully to enable value judgements that allowed patients a meaningful choice. 

But it added that it was very easy to draw inaccurate conclusions without adequate context, such as comorbidities, particularly for those not medically qualified.

FIPO continued: ‘While recognising that the private healthcare environment differs from that of the NHS, there is some merit in at least mirroring NHS performance metrics. The Competition and Markets Authority has asked for adverse events to be attributed on an individual basis. 

‘This can be misleading, as the hospital and the surgical/medical team are all involved and events of this type are rarely down to just one single person.

‘We know from previous research that healthcare failures are multifactorial, and 96% of the errors that occur within a healthcare environment are due to systems errors; the remaining four per cent being due to human mistakes. 

‘However, private hospitals are not homogenous. The range of procedures and clinical support provided at site level differ enormously.’ 

More details of hospitals’ intensive care called for

Federation chairman Mr Richard Packard strongly believes that patients should be supported to choose the provider most suited to their personal medical requirements. 

He would like to see the provision of information about each provider site, such as the availability of on-site intensive care, because this would help those with complex conditions. 

FIPO said it would encourage all consultants to enter their private patient data onto the appropriate national audits, as proposed by their specialty associations. Providers should be requested to offer support for this. 

It considered the capture of this ‘clinically rich and relevant information’ would, in the long term, allow for greater understanding of private healthcare’ complexities and performance.

Mr Packard added: ‘FIPO believes that patients should be able to exercise their informed choice based on accurate, meaningful and relevant information that will allow for a trustworthy and beneficial consultant-patient relationship.’