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Most NHS trusts failing to meet basic standards

Self-assessments reveal that trusts are struggling to provide required levels of safety and quality of care

The majority of NHS trusts in England are failing to meet basic standards of safety and quality of care, according to the results of self-assessments compiled by the Healthcare Commission (HC) for its annual health check.

The news will come as a blow to health secretary, Patricia Hewitt, who has insisted that the NHS's financial problems have not impacted on quality of care.

Trusts were asked to say how they measure up against 24 standards (with 44 parts) in areas such as safety, clinical effectiveness and patient focus. Only a third of the 570 trusts claimed to be meeting all of the 44 core standards of competence.

A quarter admitted to lapsing on at least four of these standards, while ten trusts said they had failed to achieve at least 14, which constitutes an overall failing, according to the commission.

ìWe are encouraged by the way many boards have put their hands up and declared non-compliance with some of the standards,î said HC chief executive, Anna Walker. ìThe first step to sorting out a problem is identifying that there is one.î

She added that all trust boards that have admitted non-compliance ìmust now take action to address the areas where they believe they are weakî.

The HC is trying out a new system of NHS assessment that uses self-declaration, performance data and inspection to target regulatory efforts where there is evidence of a problem.

The Commission `screens' the declarations using other information such as clinical audits, surveys of patients and performance data from other regulators. It uses up to 2,000 items of data, including information from over 30 different bodies.

ìWe are pleased that 75 per cent of trusts assess themselves as achieving at least 90 per cent of all the standards,î said a Department of Health spokesman (DoH). ìWe expect organisations to act straight away to make improvements if they see evidence of a problem. The DoH will take the necessary actions to respond to problems with any trusts when the overall performance ratings are published.î

The annual health check, which will replace the old `star ratings' evaluation system, is due out in October.

30th September 2008

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