School of Public Health

Dr Foster Unit at Imperial College

Research Highlights: More deaths from surgery closer to the weekend

Patients undergoing planned surgery appear more likely to die if they have their operation at the end of the week, a study published by Paul Aylin and colleagues in the British Medical Journal has found.

Our expertise is in making the most out of routinely collected health data. The NHS has been said to be awash with data but short on information. Our aim is to convert the former into the latter, recognising that there are a number of barriers to the use of information, in order to highlight variations in quality and safety of care. The identification of significant variation in outcomes such as death, using validated indicators, is the vital first step in the quality improvement efforts of NHS managers and clinicians.

Our research is funded through a grant from Dr Foster Intelligence. We also receive funding through our work with the Centre for Patient Safety and Service Quality (CPSSQ) and Centre for Infection Prevention and Management (CIPM).

The Unit was established in 2002 and is co-directed by Professor Paul Aylin, Clinical Reader in Epidemiology and consultant in Public Health and Sir Brian Jarman, Emeritus Professor of Primary Care.

Despite our small size,  the unit has an excellent publication record, publishing in leading academic journals, including the BMJ and the Lancet.

Francis Inquiry

The Dr Foster Unit's work in patient safety was noted in the Mid Staffordshire Public Inquiry:

5.237 "There is no doubt that, without the work of the Dr Foster Unit and Dr Foster Intelligence, comparative mortality statistics would not have been published as quickly, or as fully, as they now are.”

5.192 “There is now a consensus that significantly high HSMR/SHMI results should trigger a serious consideration of whether poor care is an explanation for them, whatever other steps are also taken. In any event, the explanation of poor coding offers little reassurance that there is no matter of concern.”

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