Headlines: April 4th, 2005

Some 500 NHS trusts will no longer be subjected every three years to major reviews lasting several months, with trusts submitting vast amounts of data, incurring costs of up to 150,000 pounds and inspectors spending a week on-site. The new style inspection system aims to cut regulation costs, particularly for the best performers. It estimates that about 20 per cent of trusts will face a visit or a spot check on core standards each year, typically lasting two days.Under the new system NHS trusts will annually publish a declaration on whether they meet government-set standards. The standards cover areas like safety, clinical effectiveness, patient focus and the care environment. Declarations will be checked to ensure they are accurate by getting corroboration from patient and public involvement forums, strategic health authorities and the scrutiny reports of local councils. This new use of scrutiny reports will increase their importance and raise their status across the health service.

The results of the new-style reviews will be used to drive up performance in organisations that are doing less well, typically the bottom 10 per cent. They will also show how patients fare when moving between health and social care organisations. The system aims to reduce regulatory burdens while giving the public a more accurate picture of performance. For the first time patients and public representatives will be offered a formal role in judging the quality of services.

The Commission is also cutting down on requests for data by sharing data with other regulators and it will save almost 7 million pounds by cutting data collection. It will launch a red-tape hotline so that healthcare staff can highlight concerns about any excessive burden placed on them.