Safety Will Be Top Priority Of Healthcare Commission’s Annual Health Checks

Safety will continue to be the top priority for the Healthcare Commission when it carries out its annual performance ratings of NHS trusts next year. This message is outlined in the Commission’s newly published plan for the 2007/2008 annual health check.

This follows a consultation process earlier this year, which received 147 submissions. While changes to the plan have been kept to a minimum, new statutory responsibilities of the Commission will be included in the process. This includes compliance with the Hygiene Code, which aims to protect the safety of patients and the public by enforcing strict standards to prevent and manage healthcare-associated infection.

For the first time, the Commission will make an assessment of the quality of data that trusts collect on Clostridium difficile. In addition, the Commisssion will continue to assess how trusts are doing in meeting the MRSA reduction targets. The health checks themselves will be streamlined in comparison to previous years. Trusts will now be assessed on whether they meet the overall objective of a standard, not every minor detail of the criteria for standards.

In the 2006/07 annual health check, the Commission reduced the “lines of enquiry” by more than 25%. It will continue this reduction in 2007/08 and there will also be fewer criteria for each standard. In 2006/07, the Commission carried out five service reviews in which trusts were scored on their performance. In 2007/08, this will be reduced to two.

The Commission received strong support from stakeholders to its proposals to tailor the annual health check for the different types of trusts. In 2007/08, the Commission will develop separate criteria for the four different types of trusts: primary care, acute, mental health and ambulance trusts.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “Much of the annual health check will be business as usual. But there are some important changes that will make the assessment more focused on the ‘bigger picture’, with less duplication for trusts, more inclusive of the views of patients and the public, and better tailored to the different operating environments of ambulance and mental health trusts.”