Wednesday, June 3, 1998 Published at 11:07 GMT 12:07 UK
Hospitals to get quality control
New body could push up quality of care
A new independent body which will measure the quality of hospital services and develop new assessment standards is launched this week.
The launch comes just days after the General Medical Council found that three doctors could be guilty of professional misconduct over the quality of their heart surgery.
Twenty-nine out of 53 children died after being operated on by Dr Janardhan Dhasmana and James Wisheart at the Bristol Royal Infirmary. Their manager, Dr John Roylance, also faces further action.
The Health Quality Service brings together the King's Fund Organisational Audit, the Health Services Association and the Hospital Accreditation Programme.
It aims to encourage good practice and raise quality standards, in line with recent government White Papers on health and will work with hospitals to raise standards.
The HSQ will ensure hospitals comply with health and safety regulations, are properly staffed, have equipment that works and inform patients about the choices available to them.
HQS executive director Peter Griffiths said: "Developing a quality agenda is all about improving the care that people receive, or, as we describe it, focusing on 'Mrs Jones'."
Parents of the children who died at Bristol Royal Infirmary complained that they were not given accurate information about the risks of the heart operations.
The HSQ will have a budget of around £2 million a year and 25 staff. It will build on work done by the King's Fund Organisational Audit. Hospitals pay up to £17,000 for a complete quality check. If they are approved, they can advertise a quality logo.
The HSQ is backed by patient organisations, such as the Association of Community Health Councils. It will be assessed by the UK Accreditation Service.
Speaking at the launch, health minister Baroness Jay said the government would shortly publish new plans to improve quality and access to NHS services.
She said the government's proposed National Institute for Clinical Excellence, to be launched next year, would ensure all parts of the NHS were up-to-date on what is clinically effective and will produce clear clinical guidance. The HSQ will provide the standards which NICE will check up on.
"NICE will help the government bear down on unequal access to services, while ensuring that the services patients get are of a high quality and effective," said Baroness Jay.
She said a new independent report on stroke care by the Clinical Standards Advisory Group showed a wide variety of care and rehabilitation across the country.