Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Inspections Will Focus 'On the Basics'

Magazine article Public Finance

NHS Inspections Will Focus 'On the Basics'

Article excerpt

The 'radical' new inspection regime for NHS trusts launched this week will help end the distortion of clinical priorities caused by excessive use of performance targets, Anna Walker has told Public Finance.

The Healthcare Commission's chief executive said the new regulatory framework, unveiled on March 31 and replacing the star ratings system, would usher in a more rounded inspection regime.

Trusts would be rated on their ability to get the basics right', such as cleanliness and customer focus, and there would be less emphasis on performance against specific benchmarks.

'At the moment there is not much measurement of things that matter clinically,' said Walker, who is expected to become permanent secretary at the Department of Trade and Industry after the election. 'But with the new system we're not just looking at narrow targets, we're bringing out the distortions inherent in the system.'

In recent weeks, there have been claims that clinical staff have been prevented from closing MRSA-infected wards because managers were worried about not meeting treatment targets.

Commission chair Sir Ian Kennedy told PF that where the new inspection regime produced evidence that specific targets were compromising clinical care, the watchdog would make representations to the government.

'One of our duties is to report to Parliament annually on the state of health care. That report would be an opportunity to comment if standards themselves needed to be adjusted or if new targets were leading to distortion in provision of care.'

Under the new streamlined system, inspections will occur only where the commission believes there are grounds for concern, and their scope will depend on the scale of the perceived problem.

Instead, each trust will produce a self-assessment, which must include the views of patients' forums and other partners, measuring performance against five criteria. …

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