NHS to get Ofsted-style rating system

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Health, has requested a review to analyse the advantages of an Ofsted-style rating system being implemented for hospitals and care homes. The purpose of the review is to investigate how a new ratings system could help put a stop to the crisis in standards of care for health and social care. It will particularly focus on how information about services can be publicised and how it can be used to improve standards.

Hunt has criticised the instances of poor care that have previously emerged. One of these cases meant patients were left lying in their own excrement at Stafford Hospital, while residents have been forced to take cold showers, as well as been punched and kicked, at Winterbourne View.

The health secretary said that they have found the opposite of what should be the uppermost compassion and devotion to patients. Instead, there is coldness, indifference, resentment and contempt from caregivers. Some of the worst cases are much darker. Cruelty, cold-heartedness and the legitimacy of the unacceptable have become commonplace. A focus must be put on dignity and respect, as well as a drive for improvement in care standards. A vital part of that is making the performance of institutions more transparent, beginning with a rollout of the family and friends test across the NHS.

Hunt went on to say that they will roll out the test next year. For the first time, patients will be asked if they recommend the care they were given to a family member or close friend. NHS workers will also be anonymously asked if they would recommend their own organisation. This is as close as they can get to staff caring for someone as they would want to be cared for. The results of these surveys will be published, but more will need to be done.

As an MP, the health secretary continued, he knows how well schools are doing due to independent and detailed Ofsted inspections. However, since the Care Quality Commission (CQC) simply measures if the lowest standards are reached, he doesn’t know how hospitals and care homes are doing. He’s not supporting that old ’star ratings’ should return, but the principle of an easy-to-understand, expert, independent assessment of performance comparing these places must be right. This week he requested an independent study on how this can be achieved so bureaucracy isn’t increased.

Hunt has ordered the recommendations by then end of March and is clear that any proposed new ratings system needs clear, simple results patients can understand so that organisations will be driven to excel instead of just achieve the minimum. He also made clear that there should be better certainty that meagre care is discovered early, that there’s no increase in bureaucracy and that managerial accountability is strengthened.

This review will be led by Nuffield Trust director Jennifer Dixon, who says it’s sensible to question how the quality of care is analysed among health and social caregivers considering all the systems in place already to support and monitor the quality received by the public. They look forward to doing an independent assessment of this issue and working with a variety of groups across the industry in the UK to learn from previous experience, other sectors and other nations.

The Local Government Association’s Councillor David Rogers OBE says that providing clarity will deliver assurances for older people who are looking for the best care and support. However, the ratings have to be current and reflect a real picture of car home service levels for them to be trusted and reliable. This means they will need to be no more than two years old, take into account already available information, users’ views and information from local care authorities and other care organisations.