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'Ofsted-style' ratings for NHS services

Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has announced plans to try and create a more patient-focused NHS culture. From next year, healthcare services in key areas, such as cancer, maternity care, dementia and mental health, will be subject to ratings that will be published online for all to see! It has been suggested that the transparency of the ratings will encourage improvements in the standard of care provided to patients.

There are also measures being put in place to reduce bureaucracy across the health system so more time can be spent caring for patients. This includes working towards paperless GP surgeries by 2018.

Jeremy Hunt said: “This Government believes in the NHS and its values – and we’re investing an extra £10 billion in to transform services during this Parliament. A key part of that transformation is building a more patient-focused culture.

We’ve made progress in creating a stronger partnership between doctor and patient, but we still put too many obstacles in the way of doctors and nurses wanting to do the right thing.

By being more transparent than ever before about crucial services and freeing up more time for GPs to care, we really can make NHS patients the most powerful in the world.”

There has been widespread criticism over the rating proposals, with many suggesting it will mean more time and money wasted on admin rather than frontline staff. Others are suggesting it is simply the first step towards privatisation.

I wonder what people are supposed to do with this information when it is published. Will people move house to be close to a better hospital in the same way people move to be close to a good school? Will bright, ambitious junior doctors head for the highest rated hospitals, leaving those with poor ratings to settle for the less attractive candidates? The aim is to improve the standard of care, but it is a worry that the exact opposite may be the result.

By Jasmin Talai, Medical Negligence team.