Date Published: 13 October 2008

NHS performance ratings set to reveal whether services are improving

The Healthcare Commission will this week unveil performance ratings for every NHS trust in England, showing whether organisations have improved their quality of services and made better use of their resources over a three year period.

The Commission’s annual health check is the most comprehensive assessment of performance ever undertaken in the NHS.

First carried out in 2005/2006, comparisons over the three years will be possible, showing whether services are improving over time.

The third annual health check will be published on Thursday 16 October, providing a detailed picture of the state of public healthcare in England. Every one of the country’s 391 NHS trusts is involved.

Each trust will receive two ratings on a four-point scale of ‘excellent’, ‘good’, ‘fair’ or ‘weak’. One rating covers the quality of their services, measured against the government’s core standards and national targets; the other relates to the use of their resources, measured against how well they manage their finances.

The score for quality of services will be based on how well trusts perform against:

* core standards in areas which really matter to patients such as safety, quality of care and how responsive a trust is to patients;
* existing national targets, which are predominantly concerned with waiting times and access to services;
* new national targets, designed to promote improvement in health outcomes such as smoking, sexual health, health inequalities and reduction in death rates for cancer, stroke and heart disease.

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

The annual health check is the most comprehensive assessment of NHS performance ever undertaken.

All the information will be available on the Commission’s website, which has been refreshed and updated to make it even more user-friendly. Patients will be able to look up their trust and find out how their local services are performing.

Gary Needle, Head of Assessment and Methods at the Commission, said:

We all have ownership of the NHS, so it’s only right that patients and the public should be able to see detailed information about how their local services are performing and whether they are meeting core standards.

When we introduced the annual health check in 2006, we wanted it to be a comprehensive assessment that got to the heart of what is happening in every NHS organisation in the country. When we publish the assessment for the third time, patients will be able to see whether their services are improving and whether they are delivering the things that patients want, such as clean hospitals, reduced waiting times, access to GPs and good quality of care. Last year we saw improvements across the country, and I hope we will see this trend continue in this year’s ratings.”

The Commission’s system of assessing the NHS uses a combination of self-declaration, nationally available data, information from patients and the public, as well as follow up inspections.

In June, the trust boards declared whether they thought they complied with the core standards set by the government. This year, more trusts declared compliance against more of the core standards than previous years.

The declarations have now been rigorously cross-checked using information such as national reviews, surveys of staff and patients, as well as data from other regulators relating to performance. Also, more than 7000 pieces of information have been collected from patients and the public and additional intelligence gathered by the Commission’s assessors throughout the country. One in five trusts received a follow-up visit, some randomly chosen and others based on risk.

Mr Needle added:

"This is a pioneering assessment system that uses detailed information gathered from a range of sources, supplemented by inspections to see NHS services in action. We believe this strikes the right balance in ensuring that the NHS is accountable to the public, while letting services get on with what they do best – providing healthcare to thousands of patients every day.”


Source: The Healthcare Commission (England, UK).

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