Our data is improving patient care

The National Joint Registry’s Medical Director outlines how it is helping to drive even greater patient safety and quality of care for joint replacement patients:

Monitoring outcomes is the National Joint Registry’s (NJR) core function.

As well as being a fundamental driver to improve patient centred care, NJR data now provides an important source of evidence for regulators, such as the Care Quality Commission and NHS Improvement, to inform their judgements about services.

During 2017, we reviewed how the NJR monitors implant and surgeon performance as part of the development of a new NJR Accountability and Transparency Model.

A huge amount of work went into this review, including significant consultation between the NJR, regulators and the profession. Undertaking such a comprehensive review of the NJR’s monitoring processes has enhanced relationships, ensuring that national audit is being integrated across a regulatory and professional framework.

Unmistakably, the NJR’s scrutiny has led to increased patient safety with poorly performing devices removed from the market and has turned a spotlight on poor surgical practice.  However, it is important for a registry the size of the NJR – now with close to 2.5 million procedure records – to routinely review its processes to ensure that we are continuing to best serve patients.

So what is new about the NJR’s Accountability and Transparency Model?

Firstly, as part of the new model, ‘prevention’ is now a key element. Implemented for the first time this year, Alert (borderline) notifications were issued, acting to prevent surgeons from becoming Alarm (outlier) status by alerting them to deteriorating outcomes at an earlier stage. This enables surgeons to correct substandard practices and reduce or eliminate poor outcomes.

This new function will also be extended at the hospital-level and should ensure even greater public confidence in the NJR’s monitoring processes as we aim to reduce or eliminate poor outcomes in joint replacement overtime.

Secondly, formulating an agreed process to allow an appropriate review of hospitals that fall below expected performance thresholds has been an important development of the new model. As we are now working even more closely with healthcare regulators and the profession, through the British Orthopaedic Association, we can ensure that all hospitals are fully engaged with the registry and are submitting timely and accurate data. Doing so demonstrably improves outcomes for patients and allows the NJR to monitor poor performance more accurately.

The enhanced monitoring processes should help encourage hospital management to place a stronger importance on national audit data.

Importantly from a patient perspective, this way of working will provide a holistic view of surgical performance which will guide even more informed patient choice. This collaborative approach will ensure that hospitals are managed in a clear and robust manner, driven through agreed roles and relationships between the NJR, regulators and the profession.  

Looking ahead, ‘practitioner reflection’ will also become a key pillar in the NJR’s monitoring process. Formalising and monitoring the use of national audit data as part of a surgeon’s annual appraisal and revalidation is a bold new approach by the registry. Once embedded this will inform the appraisal process in a constructive way by allowing joint replacement surgeons a unique mechanism to demonstrate and record, via the National Joint Registry, that they have reviewed their performance data and, importantly, reflected upon the results.

Furthermore, this is something that we hope can be rolled out across the health service to encourage best practice behaviour and drive a positive professional culture – with a clear focus on patient safety.

It is important that the public has confidence that all surgeons who carry out joint replacement procedures review their performance data in a structured and accountable way.  We are at an exciting juncture and once implemented it will be ground-breaking for the NHS and for patient safety and reassurance.

In the data-driven change happening across the orthopaedic sector, I hope that the processes outlined here demonstrate how the NJR is supporting surgeons to keep within safe performance limits.

While standards in British orthopaedics are high, surgeons must continue to use the NJR’s rich data set to see important determinants that influence the outcome and longevity of joint replacement procedures, evaluating where additional benefits for patients can be maximised. Crucially, this includes reviewing one’s own practice by reflecting upon individual performance data.

I would encourage all healthcare professionals working in this field to explore all the further information and supporting documents relating to the NJR’s Accountability and Transparency Model via the NJR’s website:

Martyn Porter

Mr Martyn Porter is the National Joint Registry’s medical director and vice-chairman, appointed by the Department for Health from 1 February 2014.

Mr Porter is a practicing consultant orthopaedic surgeon based at Wrightington Hospital, Lancashire, a past-President of the British Orthopaedic Association (BOA) and immediate past-President of the International Society of Arthroplasty Registers (ISAR).

Martyn has published many papers on the outcomes of various different types of joint replacement and techniques. He is a keen teacher and has lectured on many courses and conference, both in the United Kingdom and abroad.

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