Intended for healthcare professionals


Health check indicators will reflect local priorities

BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 20 March 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:635
  1. Oona Mashta
  1. 1London

The list of indicators used to rate trusts in the annual health checks is set to change in 2008-9 to place more emphasis on local priorities as well as the present national ones, the Healthcare Commission in England has announced.

Nick Jones, deputy head of strategy at the commission, also said that there will be different scores for the provider and commissioning roles of primary care trusts. Speaking at a conference in London last Thursday he said that the changes reflect the government’s aim for service provision to be more responsive to the local priorities set out in its operating framework for 2008-9.

Mr Jones said, “We want to assess whether primary care trusts are delivering on national priorities set out in the operating framework.

“In the 2008-9 health checks there will also be an assessment of local priorities which trusts will be able to set with their partners, local authorities. We want to reflect these priorities and develop a more tailored assessment for provider trusts. Many targets are fully met or no longer applicable.”

He explained that the Healthcare Commission was also proposing a change to the structure to the annual performance ratings allowing them to report separately on the provider and commissioning functions of primary care trusts.

“This is because separate scores for commissioning and contracting, which are different to provision, will give a clearer picture of performance for local communities,” he said. “It will also reflect the increasing emphasis on the importance of effective commissioning.”

The Healthcare Commission is beginning a programme of visits to all acute trusts to check their progress on infection control measures in April, which will feed into the ratings for 2008-9.

Other indicators used in what will be the fourth year of the health checks will aim to maintain continuity, focusing on key areas such as safety, including cleanliness and levels of healthcare acquired infections; quality of clinical care; and commissioning and purchasing of healthcare services on behalf of local communities. Mr Jones warned that financial standing was still the main driver of poor performance.

Of the 104 NHS trusts and primary care trusts that scored a 1 overall in the 2006-7 health checks, 95 also had a financial standing score of 1.

Subject to legislation going through parliament, the Healthcare Commission is to be replaced by the Care Quality Commission in March 2009. This will bring together the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspectorate and the Mental Health Act Commission to produce a health and social care regulator.