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Wednesday, 27 November, 2002, 16:51 GMT
North-South NHS divide
Hospitals are assessed on patient care arrangements
Hospitals in the North of England and the Midlands have better arrangements for looking after patients than those in the South.

They are more likely to keep potential risks to a minimum and to learn from their mistakes.

The national divide is revealed in a report by the independent NHS watchdog, the Commission for Health Improvement.


NHS bodies in the North and Midlands have better working systems in place to deliver high quality care than those in the South

Peter Homa, CHI
The findings are based on 175 inspections of trusts carried out by the watchdog since it was established two years ago.

Officials said they hoped the report would help to focus the attention of NHS staff to tackle variations.

According to CHI, hospitals in the North and the Midlands generally score higher when its inspectors assess how they manage patient care.

Reducing risks

This includes reducing risks and improving working arrangements to ensure patients receive the best possible care.

They also get higher marks when it comes to involving patients and relatives in the development of services and policies.

They are better at using complaints data and are less likely to breach confidentiality guidelines.

In contrast, trusts in the South and London are not as good in minimising potential risks.

Staff are also more likely to fear reprisals if they reported things going wrong.

Peter Homa
Mr Homa said the hospitals should learn from each other
CHI acknowledged that greater shortages of staff in the South were a contributing factor.

However, officials said trusts needed to find more creative ways of recruiting and retaining staff.

The report also praises examples of good practice in some hospitals.

It highlighted the use of a telephone reporting system for serious incidents at Dewsbury Healthcare NHS Trust and a barcode system used by nurses at North Bristol NHS Trust to record patient care levels and so adjusts staffing accordingly.

North Durham Healthcare Trust was also praised for its use of an electronic system so x-rays can be accessed by wards and clinics around the trust.

'Clear picture'

Peter Homa, CHI chief executive, said: "From our inspections a clear picture is emerging.

"NHS bodies in the North and Midlands have better working systems in place to deliver high quality care than those in the South.

"There may be many reasons for this variation, associated with difficulties recruiting staff and difference in culture or attitude."

He added: "I hope that highlighting these will encourage others to think about how they may use these ideas and come up with new creative solutions to make the NHS work better for patients."

CHI carries out routine assessments in every NHS organisation in England and Wales as part of a rolling programme.

Where there are serious service failures, it officials can launch an investigation.

To date there have been four investigations at trusts in London and the south, compared to two in the Midlands and northern England.

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the CHI report highlighted the need for hospitals to share best practice.

"These findings show there are areas of notable practice across the country which should be spread across the NHS.

"We need to create an environment where this can flourish."

See also:

18 Jun 02 | Health
13 Jun 02 | Health
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