Ofsted-style ratings unveiled for local health services


Patients will be able to see how their local area's health service is performing with the introduction of Ofsted-style ratings.

The ratings will be given for separate areas such as cancer, dementia, diabetes, mental health, learning disabilities and maternity care, the Department of Health (DoH) said.

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt will outline the measures today along with other plans which he hopes will give patients greater power across the NHS.

It is not the first time Ofsted-style ratings have been mentioned.

Following the Stafford Hospital scandal, the Government announced last year that hospitals, care homes and GP surgeries would receive ''Ofsted-style'' ratings - outstanding, good, requires improvement, or inadequate - with officials wanting these ratings to be clearly displayed for all patients to see.

The ratings announced today, broken down by Clinical Commissioning Group (CCG), will be based on local data and will be verified by experts in each field, with initial ratings published in June next year.

By giving patients access to performance data, officials say healthcare services in local towns and cities will be more accountable to their local population than ever before.

There will also be new measures to cut bureaucracy across the health system, in a bid to save time and money.

The DoH said up to 27% of GP appointments could potentially be avoided if there was more co-ordinated working between GPs and hospitals, wider use of primary care staff and better use of technology.

Other measures will include immediately stopping referrals from hospitals back to GPs - described by the DoH as a waste of time which accounts for around 2.5% of appointments.

A single payment system will be introduced that covers all transactions to stop GP practices chasing different organisations for payment.

Surgeries are to be made paperless by 2018 and the use of fax machine communications between hospitals and surgeries is set to end which officials say will also save valuable resources which can be given over to patient care.

By giving two hours a week back to each GP, there could be a 5% increase in workforce capacity equivalent to 15 million appointments a year, the DoH said.

Mr Hunt said: "This Government believes in the NHS and its values - and we're investing an extra £10 billion in to transform services during this Parliament. A key part of that transformation is building a more patient-focused culture.

"We've made progress in creating a stronger partnership between doctor and patient, but we still put too many obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses wanting to do the right thing.

"By being more transparent than ever before about crucial services and freeing up more time for GPs to care, we really can make NHS patients the most powerful in the world."

For Labour, shadow health minister Justin Madders dismissed Mr Hunt's claim to be handing power to patients, saying that patients were finding it harder to access the NHS.

"The Tories have pushed up waiting lists, plunged hospitals in to financial crisis and left patients struggling to get GP appointments," he said.

"The uncomfortable truth for Jeremy Hunt is that his policies are failing patients, and failing the NHS."