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New NHS website to identify trusts with 'poor reporting culture'

Hospitals with low numbers of the most serious patient safety incidents are among those set to be highlighted as having a poor reporting culture on a website being launched by the health secretary later today, which will also include much anticipated data on staffing levels.

Jeremy Hunt is expected to say concerns have been found with the reporting culture at one in five NHS hospitals under a new indicator developed by NHS England.

“Healthcare carries inherent risk and while healthcare professionals work hard every day to reduce this risk every day, harm still happens”

Jeremy Hunt

The new indicator, which the Department of Health claims is the first of its kind in the world, combines performance against a number of data points including reporting of patient safety incidents and staff views on the effectiveness of their organisation’s incident reporting procedures.

Results will appear on a new patient safety section on the NHS Choices website and trusts will be given a red, blue or green rating.

Under the detailed methodology for the indicator, seen by Nursing Times’ sister title Health Service Journal, trusts which report fewer numbers of patient safety incidents leading to death and severe harm than expected for an organisation of their size will be rated red and declared “among the worst”.

This will prove controversial because, while small numbers of reports could mean a trust is failing to report, it could also mean an organisation is delivering safer care than its peers.

Analysis of the Care Quality Commission’s data, which has been used to compile the indictor, suggests Yeovil District Hospital Foundation Trust and Chelsea and Westminster Foundation Trust are among those likely to be red rated.

Helen Ryan, director of nursing at Yeovil, told Health Service Journal the trust had reported four incidents leading to death and severe harm when the CQC’s analysis had expected them to report 18.

“We have questioned that with the CQC as we felt that was too high for an organisation of our size,” she added.

Jo Bibby, director of strategy at the Health Foundation, warned the indicator could have unintended consequences and divert efforts from a “broad holistic approach to improving safety to one that is chasing targets”.

She said: “From a patient’s perspective, the ratings are not specific enough to really tell me a great deal about my care. Any organisation has instances of good or bad care so data aggregated in this way doesn’t really tell me much about the care I will receive.”

Mr Hunt will also today announce the first 12 trusts which have joined his “Sign up to Safety” campaign, which will be led by Salford Royal Foundation Trust chief executive Sir David Dalton.

He said:  “I am delighted that this campaign focuses on saving lives and reducing harm. This is the right thing to do.

“Healthcare carries inherent risk and while healthcare professionals work hard every day to reduce this risk every day, harm still happens,” he added.

“Some is unavoidable but most isn’t. Sign up to Safety seeks to reduce this harm and is a unique opportunity for us all to work together to listen, learn and act to make a difference.”

Dean Royles, chief executive of NHS Employers, said: “The new campaign ‘Sign up for Safety’ provides a further opportunity for all staff, whatever job title, role and function to think about how they can do things differently to improve patient safety.

“This has to be a good thing,” he said. “Engaging our whole workforce in taking forward this work has the potential to drive the open and inclusive culture many organisations are already working towards.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Jeremy Hunt needs the political narrative to stay focused on patient safety and satisfaction, the only way he can do this reliably is to declare some successful trusts as failing. Lucky for him the general public doesn't exactly have the strongest grasp of statistics.

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  • michael stone

    I think seeing staffing numbers is more important than this one: but despite the problem of separating better-than-average performance from under-reporting of bad events, there is probably some merit in transparency about bad events. However, we really shouldn't be using this as a 'stick to beat trusts with' - it should be used as a 'flag' to prompt trusts to see if there are problems, and to then try and improve their performance [by seeing what the better-performing trusts are doing differently, as a start].

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