International awards for Britain's best hospitals

 

The UK government wants the best hospitals in the country to be awarded “gold standard” status in a system similar to the one that awards Michelin stars for restaurants. An accreditation scheme recognising the best clinical teams within the NHS, and showing how they compare with leading hospitals in the United States and Europe, is being drawn up to improve the quality of care. The concept is to set up an international panel as judges. But why re-invent the wheel when there are two UK based international accreditation organisations that already do this? 

Lord Darzi, the Health Minister, says the scheme will introduce healthy competition, mark out best practice and encourage hospitals to aspire to world-class health services. It will apply to specific areas of care such as cancer, maternity or stroke cases. Doctors’ leaders welcome the initiative but want financial rewards for success in improving the quality of care.

Speaking about the accreditation scheme, Darzi said it might compare to the Michelin system, although it would be a single stamp of approval rather than grades of excellence. It will be voluntary and involve assessment by an international panel and peer review, with input from the medical Royal Colleges and other professional, health service and regulatory bodies such as the Care Quality Commission and the National Quality Board, “What we want to do is introduce a voluntary accreditation system which acknowledges whether the service is nationally and internationally recognised. I want to see how our best compares with the best in US and Europe, and learn from the best international examples.”

Details have yet to be fleshed out and will involve public consultation and involvement from think tanks such as the Health Foundation and the King’s Fund. Service accreditation is a highly complex area but is a logical extension of existing guidelines setting medical standards and improving services.

The logistical problem of accreditation by a diverse international panel, which may or may not have any experience of UK hospitals, appears over complicated. A method where national and international patients could identify which UK hospitals is an excellent idea.  There are two UK organisations who already have extensive experience of assessing quality and safety, and accrediting, leading UK hospitals and hospitals in a range of overseas countries. Surely it would make more sense to get one or both of them involved rather than a panel who’s judgements could at best be arbitrary?

CHKS has hospital accreditation programmes that put quality at the heart of everyday working practices. CHKS focuses on patients, their experiences and outcomes and already assesses hospitals implementing the Darzi vision of ‘high quality care for all' . An analysis of nationally available data sets has revealed Poole Hospital NHS Foundation Trust to be the safest hospital in the UK.The Trent Accreditation Scheme offers affordable accreditation based on NHS International Healthcare Accreditation standards that maximize patient safety. The Scheme has been developed by practitioners and managers from the NHS.

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