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NHS trusts face Health Commission inspections

Annual health check to replace much maligned star rating system

The Healthcare Commission (HC) has begun visits and spot checks at almost 120 NHS trusts to ensure compliance with the government's core standards.

The inspections, covering 20 per cent of NHS trusts, will be carried out between now and the end of February, as part of the first stage of the new annual health check, which has replaced star ratings.

Last month, all 570 NHS trusts submitted draft declarations on whether they met the standards during the six months to 30 September. From 2006, trusts will have to submit an annual public declaration every April.

Over the next six months the HC will check draft declarations, cross-checking them with other sources of information such as clinical audits, patient surveys, and data from other organisations.

The HC said the aim of the core standards is to assure the public that healthcare services provided by the NHS will be safe and of acceptable quality.

Anna Walker, HC chief executive, described the checks as ìan important step in reassuring patients and the public that general standards are met across the NHSî.

ìThis is a new way of working and the early signs have been encouraging,î she said. ìEvery trust in the country made a declaration on time and we attracted good contributions from representatives of patients and the public.î

The HC says that the annual health check should provide a fuller picture of performance than was possible under the star ratings system, by adopting a risk-based approach to regulation. It will also measure the performance of trusts in meeting the government's targets, carrying out improvement reviews, which aim to promote improvement in performance areas of priority such as services for children in hospital, and substance misuse.

Trusts will be given an annual performance rating, using a four-point scale ranging from ìexcellentî to ìweakî.

30th September 2008

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