Surgeons who refuse to tell the public how well they perform in operations will be named and shamed by the NHS next week as officials publish the first national league tables for medics.
As well as a ranking of all NHS consultants, the body has said it will publish the names of the “very few” surgeons who have decided to withhold data from publication alongside their colleagues.
The unprecedented move, which sees the first tables published by NHS England on the ‘Choices’ website today, is part of central government plans for a more transparent health service.
In an attempt to better inform patients about the potential risks of different surgeries, the lists will allow members of the public to compare the number of times consultants have done a procedure and their mortality rates.
At first, data will be available from 3,500 medics across 10 specialities, including vascular surgery figures that were released today, but it is believed the practice will be rolled out to include all NHS consultants over the summer.
A Royal College of Surgeons spokeswoman said that "fewer than 30" medics did not give consent for their data to be published in the initial wave, but none of them were deemed to have notably high mortality rates.
She added that only "a handful" of surgeons who are to be included in the table appeared as "outliers" - where their results were significantly better or worse than others.
Professor Sir Bruce Keogh, medical director for NHS England, said: "This is a major breakthrough in NHS transparency. Surgeons deserve real credit for taking this voluntary leap. This is a major cultural change in the way the NHS works and we expect this to take time to bed in.
"The public interest is clear but there were valid and proper concerns about the dangers of misinterpretation and a great deal of work has been done to address them. Over time, the information that will be available will expand to include more indicators which reflect this important quality measure.
"A small number of surgeons have so far not consented to their data being published but, as is our experience with the publication of cardiac data, we expect this to change over time with more consultants agreeing to their data being published.”
Celebrating the plan, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "We need to see a revolution in transparency in the NHS - publishing this data will not only drive better care for patients, it could literally save lives.
"Publishing success rates in heart surgery has already led to one of the lowest mortality rates in Europe. These organisations have shown a real commitment to transparency in publishing this information.”