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Football yes, surgery no

BMJ 2002; 324 doi: (Published 01 June 2002) Cite this as: BMJ 2002;324:1343
  1. Christopher Wigfield, specialist registrar in cardiothoracic surgery,
  2. Stephen C Clark, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon,
  1. Freeman Hospital, Newcastle upon Tyne

    The main purpose of the football premiership is to provide entertainment. Competition is a source of excitement in sport, and league tables are essential tools to measure success. The prime target of cardiothoracic surgery is to restore health, often in life threatening circumstances. The process requires the application of highly technical and skilled surgery, anaesthesia, and intensive care by numerous professionals, to achieve a favourable outcome for the patient.

    League tables will inevitably result in additional premature deaths

    At first sight it may appear useful to introduce an element of competition as an incentive to improve performance. However, publishing league tables that claim to provide evidence of standards in health care can deceive the public, make patients anxious, and be scornful and demotivating for healthcare professionals.

    Inferior premier league football clubs get relegated and replaced by new contenders every season. Sampling errors are virtually impossible …

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