Date Published: 9 October 2006

Healthcare watchdog to unveil most comprehensive assessment of NHS performance

Results out this week:

The Healthcare Commission will this week unveil the results of the most comprehensive assessment of NHS performance (UK National Health Service) ever carried out.

The independent healthcare watchdog is responsible for assessing and reporting on the performance of healthcare organisations on an annual basis. For NHS trusts, this involves issuing an annual performance rating for all NHS trusts in England.

Over the past four years NHS organisations have been given star ratings, which were based on performance against key targets set by the government.

But now, for the first time, the NHS will be assessed against the annual health check, a more comprehensive and therefore tougher system of assessing performance.

Gary Needle, the Healthcare Commission’s head of the annual health check, said:

This is a much broader assessment than star ratings. It looks beyond a narrow range of targets and will therefore feel tougher to trusts, particularly in the first year. It looks at how well a trust meets basic standards on quality as well as how it manages its use of resources.

_ The health check looks at things like how good trusts are at protecting patient’s safety, keeping hospitals clean and how long patients are kept waiting for treatment. It gives us a much clearer picture of which trusts are performing well or poorly and in which areas.”

On Thursday 12 October, the Commission will rate trusts on two areas: quality of services and use of resources. It will give each trust a rating on a four-point scale of “excellent”, “good”, “fair” or “weak”.

The score for the quality of services rating will be based on how well trusts meet:

  • 24 core standards in areas like safety, clinical effectiveness and patient focus
  • existing targets, designed to ensure they are meeting basic levels of service (up to 16 targets depending on the type of trust)
  • new national targets designed to promote improvement in specific areas of health and healthcare (up to 21 targets depending on the type of trust)
  • the results of reviews of specific services: children’s services, substance misuse, tobacco control, community mental health, admissions management, medicines management and diagnostic services.

The score for use of resources is based on how well an organisation in the NHS manages its finances.

For non-foundation trusts, the Commission uses the Audit Commission’s assessment of trust performance. For foundation trusts, the Healthcare Commission uses information from Monitor on their financial risk rating.

In a bid to minimise the impact on those providing health services and use information to target inspection at areas of risk, the Commission has made a radical move to change the way it carries out assessments.

First, the Commission asked trusts to satisfy themselves they provide good services and put responsibility on boards to sign off a declaration of how they have done. All boards submitted a self-declaration on how they performed against the government’s 24 core standards during the financial year 2005/2006.

Then the Commission cross-checked the declarations against 2,000 data items, including information from other organisations. It fed in the views of patients and the public by taking comments from patient and public involvement forums and the overview and scrutiny committees of local authorities.

After this, the Commission carried out inspections where it found discrepancies with what the trust declared. Around 10% of trusts received a follow-up visit for this reason, with an additional 10% getting a random spot check.

Patients and the public will have access to all trusts on the newly constructed website On the ratings section of the website, people will be able to find information on healthcare organisations by postcode, via a map or by searching for an organisation by name. Individual trusts can be compared against other similar trusts or against national performance.

Mr Needle also said:

We want to give patients a picture of how their local health services are doing. People will be able to see information on our website and it will tell them much more about the quality of local health services.

The website gives patients information to help answer questions such as:

  • How long will I wait ?
  • How safe and clean is it ?
  • How good is the care I will receive ?
  • Will I be treated with dignity and respect ?
  • Does the organisation help me stay healthy ?
  • How well is the organisation managed ?

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