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New patient data highlights provider variation

Clinicians and managers should use patient feedback published last week to drive up standards and work out where improvements need to be made, the NHS Confederation has urged.

Latest patient-reported outcome measures (PROMs) released by the NHS Information Centre– the first set of yearly comparative data – show wide variation between providers in benefits patients report after common surgical procedures.

NHS Confederation deputy director of policy Jo Webber said the data was crucial for ‘holding up a mirror to the care that organisations provide'.

The figures for 2010/11 show almost 70 per cent of those undergoing groin hernia surgery, hip replacement, knee replacement and varicose vein surgery, responded to the post-operative questionnaires – up 4 per cent on the previous year.

Nationally scores fell slightly for hip replacements, with 86.7 per cent of respondents claiming improvement in general health after surgery compared with 87.2 per cent in 2009/10, and varicose vein surgery which dropped from 77.9 per cent to 77.6 per cent.

But PROMs scores increased slightly for knee replacements from 77.6 per cent to 77.9 per cent and groin hernia operations which went from 49.3 per cent to 50.5 per cent.

‘It's relatively easy to measure whether a procedure has been a clinical success, but to know whether a patient feels their lives have improved as a result is just as crucial,' Ms Webber said.

‘Clinicians and managers need to use this information to identify where they can make improvements for patients.

‘Where scores are lower for certain treatments, it is essential that those organisations take the chance to scrutinise this feedback and look at how they can improve standards and procedures.'

 Dr Johnny Marshall, interim partnership development director for NHS Clinical Commissioners, said that although it is known there is variation in the treatment that patients receive what is sometimes missing is the clear understanding of whether that means better or worse outcomes for patients.

‘PROMS data is an important tool for getting a clearer picture of whether certain treatments work for patients or not.

‘It is essential that we get a better understanding of what patients are really looking for and make sure they are aware of the range of options available to them to support them in achieving the best outcomes.'

But he said that must be balanced against the resources available to commissioners and other needs within the population.

‘We also need to carefully assess situations where treatment is deemed to be a clinical success but the patient experiences no benefit.'

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