League Tables Are Inaccurate In Ranking Hospital Death Rates

June 26, 1998

(Annual league tables of mortality in neonatal intensive care units: longitudinal study)

The UK Government believes that publishing hospital 'death tables' is an important step towards meeting its commitment to monitoring services and spreading best practices within the National Health Service. But annual league tables are not a reliable indicator of performance or best practice, conclude Gareth Parry et al, based on their study of nine neonatal intensive care units in the UK, published in this week's BMJ.

The authors found that league tables are unreliable in comparing death rates - over a period of six years the hospitals that they studied fluctuated wildly in the rankings, year on year. They state that amalgamating league tables over several years may pinpoint the most successful hospitals, but will not identify best practices and suggest, therefore, that policies based on annual league tables may cause as much harmas good.

Contact:

Mr Gareth Parry, Research Fellow in Health Services Research, Medical Care Research Unit, School of Health and Related Research, University of Sheffield, Sheffield g.parry@sheffield.ac.uk

The UK Government believes that publishing hospital 'death tables' is an important step towards meeting its commitment to monitoring services and spreading best practices within the National Health Service. But annual league tables are not a reliable indicator of performance or best practice, conclude Gareth Parry et al, based on their study of nine neonatal intensive care units in the UK, published in this week's BMJ.

The authors found that league tables are unreliable in comparing death rates - over a period of six years the hospitals that they studied fluctuated wildly in the rankings, year on year. They state that amalgamating league tables over several years may pinpoint the most successful hospitals, but will not identify best practices and suggest, therefore, that policies based on annual league tables may cause as much harmas good.
-end-


BMJ

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