Hospitals to display Ofsted-style inspection ratings

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Jeremy Hunt has unveiled new proposals which require hospitals to display their inspection ratings in the waiting rooms or at the entrances.

According to the Health Secretary, displaying the scores on doors would aid people in finding out where treatment is available, however health experts have warned that these signs could cause patients unnecessary anxiety.

As from next month, GP surgeries and NHS trusts will be formally rated by the Care Quality Commission. Inspections have already commenced whereby hospitals are given an Ofsted-style rating of Outstanding, Good, Needs Improvement or Inadequate.

An improved inspection method was introduced last year after the Francis Inquiry into the care failings at Mid Staffordshire.

Ratings will be based on five themes, but will not include detailed information regarding individual services, as the quality thereof often varies within a hospital.

The new plans stipulate that hospitals should display the ratings in a ‘conspicuous place’. The plans are applicable to care homes, GP surgeries and private hospitals as well.

The document states that the new plans would offer poor providers an incentive to reach the same standards as the best providers.

The assistant director of policy at the King’s Fund, Catherine Foot, has however said that these signs are at risk of misleading patients.

She said hospitals offer such a diverse range of services that it is difficult to calculate the quality level. She added that a large acute hospital may have a poor rating posted on its front door, but the rating may be pushed by the community hospital which is located down the road, or by a small subset of the services within a large hospital.

As an example, she said that a patient may go to their local hospital for a hip replacement, and the said hospital may have been rated in the ‘requires improvement’ category due to its poorly performing maternity unit, but its hip replacement procedures may be of the highest standard. The patient would be able to view the overall rating and could become anxious or choose a different hospital for no reason at all.

A source from the Department of Health said that it is not the intention to scare people, but merely to inform them. The aim is for hospital chief executives to walk in the door and be able to view what work needs to be done.

Image Credit: kate hiscock

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