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Government plans new hospital rating system


Health secretary Jeremy Hunt wants to introduce a new Ofsted style rating system for hospitals and care homes to end the “crisis of care” in some parts of the system.

He has commissioned a review of how the system could work that will look at how data on performance and patient experience can be combined with information from Care Quality Commission inspections to produce a “useful, credible and meaningful” rating.  

Nursing Times understands the ambition is to provide ratings for departments or even wards within hospitals, if possible.

The move reflects criticism that previous trust-wide rating systems, such as the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check or star rating systems, were too high level and could not give an accurate picture of care across a whole trust.

Mr Hunt officially announced the review on Wednesday in a speech to the think tank the King’s Fund.

He said: “In places that should be devoted to the patient, where care and compassion should be uppermost, we find its very opposite; coldness, resentment, indifference to human feelings – and in the very worst cases, like Winterbourne View, the unacceptable becomes legitimised and the plain cruel becomes the normal.”

The annual health check was fatally undermined in 2009 when the CQC intervened at Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals Trust, which was then showing a “good” rating under the annual health check.

Mr Hunt said: “Parents know how well each school in my constituency is doing thanks to independent and thorough Ofsted inspections. But I do not know the same about hospitals and care homes.”

He added that there was a need for something that goes “further” than the friends and family test of patient experience, which is currently being rolled out, and the CQC’s essential standards.

Mr Hunt has stipulated that any new rating system should not increase bureaucracy, be easily understandable to the public and increase the chance of problems being identified before care failings like those seen at Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

“There may have been problems with the way previous assessments were done, the people who did them, their timeliness or their accuracy. But the principle – that there should be an easy to understand, independent and expert assessment of how well somewhere is doing – is correct. And essential if we are to drive up standards,” he said.

Royal College of Nursing chief executive and general secretary Peter Carter said: “We know that Ofsted is a credible ratings system, which is respected by parents and users of the system. The RCN would support the introduction of a more comprehensive and robust system that can reflect the quality of services and the patient experience.

“We would like to see a more nuanced system than simply the ‘friends and family’ test that takes account of a wider range of factors and we look forward to seeing more details of this proposal.”

He added: “We know that as finances are squeezed, the quality of patient care is increasingly under threat. Increased transparency and more information for patients will help to ensure financial considerations do not override patient care. Equally, we know that there is no substitute for having the right number of staff with the right skills in hospitals and care homes.”



Readers' comments (12)

  • I'm not sure that a rating scale is the solution to issues like Winterbourne View, or indeed that the current system 'legitimised' what was happening there. An adequately staffed regulator with the teeth to respond to problems quickly might be an idea.

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  • michael stone

    'He added that there was a need for something that goes “further” than the friends and family test of patient experience, which is currently being rolled out, and the CQC’s essential standards.'

    Indeed - narrative feedback should be invited ! You can learn much more from narrative feedback, even though it cannot be neatly statisticalized like 'yes/no' answers.

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  • Tinkerbell

    there probably won't be that many hospitals left to rate after all the closures, so won't make a happeth of difference.

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  • no rating system is required. all hospitals should be obliged to work to certain standards. end of story!

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  • Why do they do everythingh but
    We need an intelligent national health care template to be followed for staffing in every type of health care setting. Make checks that every one is abiding by this standard and punish those hospitals that fail.
    Do we really need another bunch of people under another name to tick boxes for a number?
    When will they do the right thingh?
    I am getting really fed up with this.

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  • the cqc reports are not worth much, that is why this is being done - got to do something to justify being a health minister after all and let's face it the govt want to be seen to be doing something.

    this will take years, who will be the 'hospital inspector' and who will set the standards anyway.

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  • and has a rating system done anything for schools??? its yet another little game the childish brain dead government are playing ....i cannot write what im thinking

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  • Gimmick

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  • It is plainly far cheaper to employ an non medical investigative box ticker than provide safe, adequate staffing levels which would solve most problems that the NHS faces at a single stroke...

    The NHS has been turned into an accountants playground....

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  • I must apologose for poor grammar on my previous comment.

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