Heart surgeons are refusing to treat seriously ill patients because they are worried they may die on the operating table, negatively impacting their performing ratings.

Information on how well consultant surgeons perform, including their mortality ratings, can be viewed by the public on a website called ‘MyNHS’.

The scheme was introduced in 2014 and is intended to improve standards and make surgeons more accountable for their actions.

However, a consultant cardiac surgeon has said that increased transparency is actually causing clinicians to prioritise their league tables over patient care.

Dr Samer Nashef anonymously polled heart surgeons, asking if they had ever refused to operate on a patient because they may die, thereby affecting their ratings.

Of the 115 specialists that responded, just under one third said they had recommended a different course of treatment in order to avoid a patient death under their care.

A total of 84% said they knew of other surgeons who made decisions based upon their league tables.

Dr Nashef said: “Transparency has added a different dimension to the way surgeons think. Beforehand the surgeons would look at a patient and think, ‘I know what’s best for you’, it’s this operation. Now a surgeon looks at a patient and says, ‘I know what’s best for you but is this going to be good for my figures?’”

“I conducted this survey to find out how much impact this has on surgeon’s decision-making and tragically it is quite a big influence.”

He added: “About 30% of them said they had turned patients down for surgery even when they knew full well that surgery was in their best interest.”

“So [for] the high risk patients…there is evidence that suggests they are not being offered surgery because of concerns about figures and outcomes.”

The policy of making performance data available to the public has been criticised from the outset.

Experts argue the figures are misleading because the best surgeons are often asked to do the most difficult operations, where there is a much greater chance the patient will die.

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