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Hospitals are “gaming” data on common operations, leading surgeon says

BMJ 2016; 352 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.i628 (Published 01 February 2016) Cite this as: BMJ 2016;352:i628
  1. Nigel Hawkes
  1. 1London

Attempts by the NHS in England to measure the benefits to patients from common operations could be undermined by hospitals artificially boosting their results, a leading orthopaedic surgeon has warned.

Angus Wallace, recently retired as a consultant orthopaedic surgeon at Nottingham University Hospitals NHS Trust, said that the NHS’s patient reported outcome measures (PROMs) could be “gamed” by hospitals contacting patients shortly before they were due to complete their follow-up questionnaire.

PROMs assess benefits of hip and knee replacement operations, hernia repair, and varicose vein surgery by comparing patients’ responses before and after the procedure. For orthopaedic operations, the follow-up questionnaire is completed six months after the operation. Since 2012 PROM data have been released as official statistics by the Health and Social Care Information Centre and are used to compare the performance of healthcare provider trusts.

“There is a centre in the south of England that has …

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