Headlines: July 19th, 2007

More needs to be done to measure the effectiveness of treatments given to NHS patients as a way of promoting improved performance according to a report today which says more sophisticated patient outcome data would act as an incredible spur to performance. The research has been conducted for the centre-right think-tank, Policy Exchange.

Its Public Services Research Director, Gavin Lockhart, said the premise behind the research was the continuing real of understanding about the clinical effectiveness of treatments. “We felt that it was time to measure whether patients got better after treatment,” he said. Today’s report, ‘Measure for measure’ sets out a vision of the future of healthcare information which would provide accountability, promote increased patient trust, and improve performance.

The authors, Richard Hamblin and Janan Ganesh, point to what they see as three basic problems with the current system of measurement. They believe the focus is too much on data collected by the NHS after patients are discharged from hospital and about mortality and readmission rates. They believe this is too limited and the focus should shift to the ‘patient experience’. They argue, too, that the current systems for monitoring healthcare quality are confusing and underdeveloped. And they believe there is a lack of understanding among policy makers about the ways in which information can improve the quality of healthcare.

They say lessons can be learned from quality measurement schemes used in other countries and say that to be successful, outcomes measures must be both visible and credible for clinicians so that they can improve and, ideally, they should be published.

In all the report makes 18 recommendations but says that fundamentally the Government needs to recognise explicitly that information provides accountability to the public and choice and assertiveness for patients as well as encouraging improvement by providers. “The Healthcare Commission needs to have the lead role in publishing information about minimum acceptable standards of care and value for money for general public consumption. That does not mean giving an overall rating for every trust every year. Instead, there should be a constantly updated “accountability balance sheet” which would provide information on the quality of care at each hospital or GP practice and reassurance that public money is being spent on the health service with due care and attention,” the report says.