Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants. Jeremy Hunt has taken up this mantra with the launch of the NHS’s Accountability Hub today. As well as offering information about your nearest GP or hospital, the NHS Choices website is now full of patient safety indicators which, according to the Department of Health, offer an ‘unprecedented amount of patient safety information to allow patients, regulators and staff to see safety performance across a range of indicators.’
All sounds like a good idea, so I had a poke around to see how much information was available on two hospitals I’ve had the pleasure of visiting — one in London, one in Gateshead. Out of the seven indicators, this is what NHS Choices had to say:
As you can see, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital is slightly understaffed, while Chelsea and Westminster is ‘among the worst’ for open and honest reporting and is rated poor for patient safety notices. Digging into the details for this hospital, I wasn’t able to find any more information — aside from 'Helen' five star review, commenting on her ‘great experience during my colposcopy and biopsy’. Looking through to the Care Quality Commission’s report on Chelsea and Westminster, I still couldn’t find any reference to these negative ratings on transparency. The CQC’s website turns off any normal person; it’s a myriad of PDFs and jargon.
To match its higher rating, the Queen Elizabeth has much more positive reviews. As 'Gill' claims ‘If your [sic] suffering from any form of arthritis, then this is the consultant to choose’. Overall, the hospital receives four stars from family and friends, as well as a clean bit of health from the CQC.
Although the Department of Health is keen to extoll the seven indicators of the new transparency drive — CQC standards, patient safety reporting, safe staffing, infection control and cleanliness, patients assessed for risk of blood clots, responding to patient safety alerts and recommendations by staff to their relatives and friends — the website still offers little concrete information to the average punter.
The problem is that the data behind the Accountability Hub. It appears to rely on recommendations of patients — which offer trends but will often differ — and the infrequent reports from the Care Quality Commission; the same quango criticised for its role in failing to spot the Mid Staffs scandal. The NHS’s Accountability Hub is better than nothing, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. More sunlight please, Mr Hunt.