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Health care ratings system backed
A ratings system for GP practices and care homes could be up and running within two years, a think tank said.
Ratings could increase accountability, help patients have better choice and enhance performance for those that do not get the best ratings, the Nuffield Trust said. At present there is a "real gap" in the information about health and social care providers available to the public, a new report by the organisation found.
In November, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt commissioned the think tank to examine the effectiveness of "Ofsted-style" inspections for hospitals and care homes. The organisation looked into whether the NHS could use a grading system similar to that in schools.
It concluded that a "single summary score" of a hospital's performance risks masking examples of good and poor care across different departments and wards. But such a ratings system could be beneficial in "less complex providers" such as care homes and GP practices, the Nuffield Trust found.
If a rating scheme was to be introduced in hospitals, it should not consider the organisation as a whole but individual services and departments, the report suggests. Lead author Dr Jennifer Dixon said that there is information on hospitals but it is confusing and the public are "largely in the dark". "There is a real gap," Dr Dixon added. "If you try and chose a care home, which is often a distressed purchase, you are scrabbling around trying to find information."
Dr Dixon said that if a ratings system was set up for GP practices and care homes it could take any time between six months and two years to set up. A ratings system for hospitals would be more complicated and take much longer, she said.
The Nuffield Trust said that the decision on whether or not to introduce a ratings system is a political one. It is understood that the Government will address the issue when it responds to the report of the public inquiry into serious care failures at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of council at the British Medical Association (BMA) , said: "It is particularly welcome that the trust has taken on board concerns about ratings for entire hospitals. As the BMA and many others pointed out, hospitals are highly complex organisations and their 'performance' cannot be measured in any simplistic way.
"However, there are always going to be problems constructing indicators that measure quality in any meaningful way, and do not result in a target-driven culture. GP surgeries often have many staff and offer a range of different services, the quality of which would be difficult to reduce to a meaningful single score."
A Department of Health spokesman said they would "need to get any rating system right".