On the Agenda - RCS figures show heart deaths drop

In a nutshell The Royal College of Surgeons of England (RCS) released a report last week that said fewer people were dying following major heart surgery. The news comes despite surgeons taking on more high-risk patients such as the elderly, diabetic and obese.

RCS figures: less heart deaths
RCS figures: less heart deaths

Why is this important?

When mortality rates in cardiac surgery were first published in 2001, there were fears surgeons would become risk-averse. The report shows this is not the case, and in fact claims audits may have contributed to the increase in survival rates. The RCS is now arguing that audits could be a more cost-effective way of driving medium-term results for patients than innovative research into new treatments. The current budget for all NHS clinical audits is just £8m - compared with £300m for NHS research.

What was the PR strategy behind the launch?

The RCS briefed key journalists in advance, supplying them with the full report. A press release was sent out under embargo two days in advance with an extended executive summary. Head of media relations Matthew Worrall handled calls. Patient case studies were also made available across the country.

Media coverage

The story was on the BBC News at 10, the 7.15 am slot on BBC Radio 4's Today programme and the second top story on BBC News bulletins. It also featured in the news section on Yahoo, PA News, the Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph, The Guardian, The Sun and The Independent. The RCS also placed an opinion piece in Health Service Journal.

2.3% - The chance of dying after heart surgery in 2001

1.5% - The chance of dying after heart surgery in 2008.

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