The Department of Health has published death rates for patients undergoing major surgery at NHS hospital trusts in England for the first time.
The publication marks a world first for a Government to expose the mortality rates of different surgical teams to scrutiny in such a way. Information on different procedures will follow in the months to come, according to NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh.
He welcomed the fact that no trusts fell below the expected standard for mortality on any of the four procedures in question: emergency and elective operations on abdominal aortic aneurysms (AAA) - one of the most common serious heart problems in the UK - hip replacements and knee replacements.
Within the group of trusts classed as performing within the expected range, there was wide variation in standardised mortality ratios.
Compared with a norm of 100, the highest death ratios for elective AAA ops were at United Lincolnshire Hospitals Trust (372), Peterborough and Stamford Hospitals Trust (332) and Lancashire Teaching Hospitals Trust (328); and for emergency AAA ops at Northern Lincolnshire and Goole Hospitals Trust (279), Royal Berkshire Trust (197) and Scarborough and North-East Yorkshire Health Care Trust (190).
For hip replacements, figures were highest at Bolton Hospitals Trust (339), Central Manchester and Manchester Children's University Hospitals Trust (290) and Mid-Cheshire Trust (253); and for knee replacement Tameside and Glossop Acute Services Trust (366), Trafford Healthcare Trust (366) and Luton & Dunstable Hospital Trust (323).
However, officials stressed that it was "inappropriate" to regard the lists as league tables ranking trusts according to their mortality rates, as one or two deaths could dramatically alter the results recorded by small units which carry out the operations only rarely.
There was no statistically significant variation in performance between trusts in the same band, and their results could be regarded as "effectively equivalent", they said.
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