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Study reveals inaccuracies in NHS data

Tash Shifrin

NHS data on patients’ hospital treatments is not accurate enough to be used in monitoring individual doctors’ performance, the Royal College of Physicians (RCP) has warned.

A pilot scheme set up by the RCP allows doctors to check the data collected and recorded for England’s Hospital Episode Statistics and the Patient Episode Database for Wales. This covers admissions to hospital, patients’ medical conditions, which consultant patients are allocated to, and hospital discharge dates.

The RCP’s director of health informatics, Prof John Williams, said, “Data has been collected and used since the inception of the NHS to monitor the performance of hospitals. It has never been designed to monitor individual physicians and its unsuitability for this purpose is confirmed by this study. 

“For this purpose we need electronic record systems that capture data at the point of care using common standards for the structure and content of the record.”

The study identified a range of inaccuracies, including treatments being ascribed to the wrong hospital consultants, incorrect information about how long patients had spent in hospital and gaps in the records.

It recommended that hospital episode statistics should not be used for measuring the performance of individual doctors or to help patients in their choices when seeking treatment.

The RCP warned that doctors were not sufficiently involved in collecting, checking or using the data, which was input by non-medical staff. The study found that data quality problems were made worse because management datasets did not reflect the way doctors actually provide care.


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