Healthcare Quality Indicators: Wales 'in line' with UK average

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Media caption,
Chief medical officer Dr Frank Atherton says new health quality indicators show Wales is going 'in the right direction'

Wales is doing as well as, and in some areas better than, other UK nations in a range of health quality indicators.

Figures directly comparing the NHS in the four UK nations have been released for the first time.

Stroke mortality rates and asthma hospital admissions are particularly encouraging for Wales.

Health Secretary Vaughan Gething said: "Most importantly it helps us know where we can do better for the people of Wales."

The comparable figures have been put together at the recommendation of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) following a review of how health services were performing a year ago.

The OECD normally only receives health statistics on a UK-wide basis but wants to see in future how the devolved NHS is performing.

Altogether, 13 different indicators have been published.

On the figures involving deaths in hospital from strokes from a bleed in the brain, Wales is at a lower rate than the UK average.

Health officials believe this could be due to the focus in improving stroke care in Wales since 2009 - after it was found to be faring badly - which led last week to a new stroke action plan being published.

There is also an improving picture across the UK of patients surviving in hospital after being admitted with heart attacks. Wales is similar to the UK's 30-day mortality rate [the number dying within 30 days] and better than Scotland's figure.

The use of balloon angioplasty and better drugs when patients are admitted have been suggested as factors.

Male heart patients in Wales had the lowest mortality rate of the home nations in this measure, although the drop in the mortality rate among women in Wales was the smallest.

The figures also show Wales is:

  • Similar to the average for patients receiving surgery for hip fractures within 48 hours, an improving UK trend.
  • Broadly in line with the UK improving trend over mortality rates for patients with ischemic strokes - the type due to blood clots.
  • Lowest of all the home nations in the rate of admissions of asthma patients to hospital.
  • Lower in terms of diabetes amputation rates for women and for foreign bodies - such as surgical swabs - mistakenly left in patients during operations.
  • Higher than the UK average for obstetric trauma during births when instruments are not used - 3.2 deliveries out of 100 compared with a UK average of 2.8.

Mr Gething said it was "good news" Wales was performing better than average in some areas.

"These figures provide us with a useful way of measuring and comparing, where appropriate, the quality of health service provision in the UK," he said.

"As the numbers of indicators increase over time we look forward to seeing how our innovative health policies are having an impact against the other home nations."

It is being stressed that this first set of figures is only experimental.

They only involve statistics up to 2013 and do not include waiting times, although the OECD as part of its work does look at how long patients wait to see a specialist.

But it is hoped they will help give a more rounded picture of healthcare between Wales, England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.