Teams of medics are to be pitted against each other in league tables.
Patients will be able to see how well consultant-led surgical teams in hospitals across England are performing against each other.
The move, announced under the NHS Mandate, aims to "shine a light on variation and unacceptable practice".
NHS medical director Professor Sir Bruce Keogh told BBC Radio 4's The Report he plans to publish league tables within two years.
He said: "It forces you, if you know your results are going to be out in the public domain, to concentrate on your own performance and data (and) to seek help from colleagues. It encourages you to really consider whether you are operating on the right patients and doing the right operation at the right time."
Plans for how the league tables will work are still being finalised, said the Department of Health.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said: "I fully support Sir Bruce Keogh's call for greater transparency. In my mandate to the NHS, I was clear that we want to see a revolution in transparency - so that the NHS leads the world in the availability of information about the quality of services. Greater transparency and accountability will help drive up standards for patients."
The British Medical Association (BMA) warned that simple tables could be "misleading".
A spokesman said: "The BMA supports measures intended to improve outcomes in hospital care and we believe it is important that patients have the information they need about the surgical team operating on them. Simplistic league tables, however, can be misleading as they do not always take account of an individual's current health status which can have a massive bearing on the outcome of an operation.
"We do not want to see a situation where surgeons are deterred from taking on complex, high risk procedures because it damages their standing in a league table."