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Government launches metrics to measure nurses' performance

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The first quality indicators that could measure the performance of NHS nurses in areas from compassion to infection control have been revealed.

The Department of Health has published possible indicators or ‘metrics’ to measure the quality of clinical teams at national, regional and local levels.

The department is asking staff how useful each indicator on the list that applies to their specialty is, and to identify any indicators that they think should be added. The list includes 465 indicators within 13 categories (see box below).


  • Healthcare-associated infections

  • Mental health

  • Cancer

  • Children, family and maternity

  • Patient experience/environment

  • Readmissions

  • Revision rates

  • Patient safety

  • Mortality

  • Cardiovascular

  • Timeliness of care

  • Patient-reported outcome measures

  • Long-term conditions


  • Score for patients who reported that they always or sometimes got enough help from staff to eat their meals

  • Score for patients who said that they found a hospital employee to talk to about worries and fears

  • Score for patients who thought that the hospital staff did everything they could to help control pain

  • Score for patients who reported that the nurses did not talk in front of them as if they were not there

  • Score for patients who reported that they always or sometimes had confidence and trust in the nurses treating them

Health secretary Alan Johnson first revealed in June that the government was planning to measure nurses on the levels of compassion they showed to patients, which led to claims in that national media that nurses would be rated on how ‘smiley’ they were.

The proposed indicators for patient experience (see box above) suggest scoring nurses on matters such as helping patients talk about their ‘worries and fears’ and whether they talked in front of patients ‘as if they were not there’ – one of the complaints levelled at nurses earlier this year by Conservative peer Lord Mancroft. The indicators also include scorings for pain control and nutrition.

Junior health minister Lord Darzi said he hoped the indicators would be used to ‘challenge and stimulate NHS staff to drive up standards in health care’.

Most nurses seem to back the principle of indicators.

Janice Sigsworth, director of nursing at Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, said it would be ‘very helpful to have metrics in place that would measure safety and effectiveness – it is difficult to know how well you are doing if you have not got the evidence to show it’.

But she added: ‘We also need to ensure that the data is not used to disadvantage particular patient groups or units or hospitals. The data needs to be standardised so everybody is treated fairly.’

To contribute to the consultation and view the indicators visit the NHS Information Centre website

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