Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Checks Its Own Pulse

Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Checks Its Own Pulse

Article excerpt

We will shortly be publishing the results of our annual assessment of the National Health Service.

This is the second year that a new, more comprehensive system of assessment has been used. So for the first time we will be able to see whether trusts are improving.

This 'annual health check' provides us with a detailed picture of the NHS. Every one of the 394 trusts in England is involved, each receiving a rating on a four-point scale of 'excellent', 'good', 'fair' or 'weak' in two broad areas.

The first of these looks at the quality of their services, measured against the government's core standards. This covers issues of real importance to patients, such as clinical quality, safety, waiting times, whether patients are treated with dignity and whether everything possible is being done to control infection and ensure cleanliness.

The other area we look at is finance. After all, if trusts do not manage their finances properly, this will eventually affect the quality of care.

Indeed, there is growing interest in the question: does the quality of health care services available represent a fair return on the £100bn of taxpayers' money spent on them each year?

While our annual health check does not answer this question overall, we do look at how well individual trusts are performing in terms of their management of resources. That's what the public wants to know - how well is their own trust doing?

Our assessments draw on the work of other regulators to avoid duplication and lessen the burden on health care organisations. Foundation and non-foundation trusts are assessed differently to reflect the different governance arrangements they are under.

For all NHS trusts, other than foundations, the Audit Commission provides the assessments based on the local evaluations made during the statutory external audits.

These cover areas such as the organisation's financial accounting and reporting arrangements, its planning and management of finances, how it is improving value for money and whether it breaks even for the year.

To assess how well foundation trusts are doing, we use the quarter four annual financial risk ratings compiled by Monitor, their independent regulator. This looks at: underlying financial performance, achievement against plan, financial efficiency and liquidity. …

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