Headlines: October 2nd, 1998

First the Government announced that local councils might be awarded ‘beacon’ status for excellent performance – now the term has moved into the health service.The NHS is to invest ten million pounds a year into identifying and promoting a hundred beacon local health services to reward and spread best practice in the NHS. The very best in each NHS region will gain annual national recognition through a new reward for excellence: the Nye Bevan Award.

Hospitals and doctors surgeries will shortly be invited to apply for beacon status. Examples of services that might qualify include one-stop, same-day-results, cancer screening clinics; surgical units which find ways of treating patients more quickly; GPs referring patients to leisure centres to reduce heart attack and stroke risk; and by psychiatric nurses working with social services, psychiatrists and GPs to provide a 24-hour rapid response to people with acute mental health problems in the community.

Bids involving others, such as a social services department, will be possible.

A contract with each organisation awarded beacon status will specify how they will share their good practice with others. They will be expected, for example, to organise open days, secondments and seminars as well as using NHSnet, the NHS’ own superhighway, to pass on information.

The detail on what being a ‘beacon’ in the health service means will be closely examined by public sector staff in local government, where the concept has not been clearly detailed other than to indicate that it will involve extra resources for performing authorities.