Re: Mid Staffs and mortality data

6 February 2013

The problems of Mid Staffs illustrate the failure to develop accessible, accurate and independent sources of information on the quality and safety of healthcare in the NHS. This is certainly not for want of data, and appears to be more of a failure of strategy and intent. If I wish to find out the quality of my local hospital service, at present there is no clear source of information I can turn to.

NHS Choices provides information on only a very limited set of indicators and doesn’t include any information for the public on the vast amount of other data collected on the performance and quality of healthcare providers. Much of these data are hosted by the NHS Information Centre, but this has taken the role of a data warehouse, a place to host and extract spreadsheets of data but which does not provide any commentary, context or insight into the data itself. Although much of the data is provided freely, some of the most useful data is behind a pay wall, with data extraction fees in the thousands of pounds.

The other main source of information on quality comes from clinical audit and registries. Whilst many provide excellent information, they are by their nature limited to coverage of only certain conditions and cannot provide an overall assessment of the quality and safety of healthcare providers.

There appears to have been a strategic decision to move much of the reporting on quality to private providers, such as Dr Foster Intelligence and CHKS. However, these companies also solicit contacts from hospitals for information analysis, improvement services and consultancy. The public would be much better served by having information on the quality of healthcare provided by organisations that did not have such a potential for conflicts of interest.

Developing reliable, trustworthy, independent and accessible sources of information on the quality and safety of healthcare would be a positive legacy from the tragedy at Mid Staffs.

Competing interests: None declared

Ben Bray, Clinical Fellow

King's College London, 42 Weston Street, Capital House, London,

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