A guide to consultant's patient numbers and how you can use this to inform discussions with your consultant.

What are Patient Numbers?

Patient numbers show the number of procedures performed by a consultant in the most recent year that we can report on.

We publish patient numbers for a consultant’s whole practice, which includes the procedures they perform in the NHS and in their private practice. This means that you can get a full view of the consultant’s recent experience in performing each procedure.

What Patient Numbers can and cannot tell you about a consultant?

Patient numbers cannot tell you about the safety or quality of the procedures performed by a consultant. However, when viewed with other information, such as length of stay and patient feedback, it can help you build a picture of the care provided.

The first thing to check is whether the consultant has patient numbers for their procedures. Sometimes the lack of this information can be because there are inaccuracies in the information supplied by the hospital. However, it may be because the consultant has chosen not to publish their measures. You should check with your consultants why this is not available, and question if you consultant has opted against publishing their data and why.

Where a consultant has performed a high number of a procedure this can be a reassuring sign as experience is important. This can also help you understand their other measures. For example, if a consultant has treated a very high number of patients, their average length of stay is likely to be more reflective of a typical patient in their care.

If a consultant has performed a lower number of procedures, this could be for a number of reasons. For example, it could be that they don't specialise in this procedure, or it could be that they perform relatively complex procedures which aren't typically performed in high volumes. 

Your checklist

  1. Check whether your chosen consultant is reporting their patient numbers. If your chosen consultant doesn’t have patient numbers information available, you should ask why this is the case.
  2. Understand your consultant’s patient numbers. Higher volumes indicate greater experience, but lower numbers can mean a procedure is more specialised.
  3. Ask questions. Use our information and the published numbers to ask your GP or consultant and their recent experience. You need to be confident that they are right for you.

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