Here at the TPA we always advocate the benefits of transparency in the public sector and yesterday this policy was justified by the findings of a health statistics report. Published by the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgery, the report has found that an increase in transparency and availability of data has improved the outcomes and survival rates of cardiac operations. The study also found that more elderly and high risk patients were operated on: despite some concerns that surgeons would be reluctant to do so.
The findings in fact suggest that the availability of reliable data on risk has emboldened surgeons to take on more complicated cases and to benchmark themselves against other hospitals. Speaking to the Guardian, John Black, President of the Royal Society of Surgeons, said, “"All of medicine should take note of the findings that full audit has not resulted in risk-averse behaviour”. When done professionally the increase in transparency has not only improved results but reassured patients who are able to make decisions on their treatment with a better understanding of the risk statistics and percentages. Now the challenge is to transfer this success to all medical procedures, which many health experts are calling for. If all doctors can strive to monitor and tighten the whole system and maintain openness of information then these encouraging figures can be replicated.
Importantly, the report shows that staff on the front line in public services can respond in exactly the right way when transparency makes them more accountable to patients. Surgeons appear to have risen to the challenge and delivered a better service while taking even more of the risky cases. This is more evidence that it is better for public sector staff to be accountable to an informed public, the people actually relying on the service, rather than government targets dreamed up in Whitehall.