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Hospitals' self-certification is flawed

Sixty per cent of English hospitals are providing misleading performance assessments according to a BBC documentary

The majority of hospitals are not assessing their own performance accurately, according to a Panorama investigation. The BBC documentary, aired last night, found that 60 per cent of inspected hospitals in England were providing misleading performance assessments.

The programme makers say that they based their findings on figures from the government's own health regulator, the Care Quality Commission (CQC). The CQC told them that no self assessment was "ever accepted at face value" after discrepancies were found between hospital-provided information and its own findings.

Checks revealed that three out of the four core areas were misreported in Peterborough, Southport and Ormskirk. Two out of four core areas were misreported in East Cheshire, Maidstone, Medway, West Hertfordshire, Weston area and Mid Staffordshire.

Last month, an inquiry into Stafford Hospital by medical intelligence company Dr Foster reported patients had been caused "unimaginable distress and suffering" as a result of "appalling" care. However the BBC documentary revealed the hospital had rated itself as 'fair' for most of the time.

Health minister Mike O'Brien said the way hospitals are rated and monitored is being changed: The system "was flawed and that's why we have changed it. And that is why we are now in a position where we don't rely on self assessment… it is subject to a whole series of checks."

The CQC said a more rigorous checking system will come into force in April. A spokesman told the BBC: "We will be using our data sources to monitor trusts' performance on a continual, even day-to-day basis, and we will have the flexibility to carry out announced checks whenever we feel there is a particular concern."

9th March 2010

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