A SURGEON has welcomed a report which puts his hospital in the top ten nationally for survival rates in heart surgery.

Middlesbrough's James Cook University Hospital came joint ninth for survival rates in heart valve and bypass operations.

A report by the Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons also puts The Freeman Hospital at Newcastle ninth for survival rates for heart valve oper- tions.

The report names surgeons and gives the number of heart operations they have performed.

But it has been criticised for not providing enough information on individual surgeons' performances.

However, Simon Kendall, consultant cardiothoracic surgeon at the James Cook University Hospital, who oversees 254 operations a year, believes heart surgery league tables could not take high-risk patients into consideration.

"The society could have made league tables of performance, but that would not allow for the surgeons who operate on high-risk patients," he said.

"If you are doing a great job, you may be seeing referr- ed patients who have a greater possible risk of dying.

"Then the surgeon's mortality rate could look bad, yet he is the best surgeon.

"He would then be at the bottom of the league table and his patients and their relatives will think he is awful.

"So what the society has done is to look at all the results (from each hospital) over a three-year period.

"No one has a mortality rate higher than 5.5 per cent and the society is confident that every single surgeon is capable of doing their job," he said.

He praised his team including surgeons, nurses, anaesthetists, perfusionists, who run heart-lung machines, and physiotherapists who had worked hard since the unit at the James Cook University Hospital was set up 11 years ago when Teesside had a massive problem with heart disease.

"There were many un- treated patients," said Mr Kendall.

"But we have worked very hard as a team. We are very proud of our results and will work hard to carry on doing our best."