Friday, April 9, 1999 Published at 12:59 GMT 13:59 UK
NHS set tough performance tests
Health authorities will be assessed on cancer survival rates
Health authorities are to be assessed by measuring their performance in 41 key areas, including teenage pregnancy rates, children's dental health and cancer survival rates.
The government has announced that the 41 "performance indicators" will be published each year so that patients can compare health authorities across England.
Other performance indicators will include:
The first results will be published this summer and eventually the indicators will be used to assess individual trusts within health authorities.
The indicators will be grouped into six areas of assessment: health improvement; fair access to treatment; effective delivery of care; patient and carer experience; outcomes and efficiency.
"This will be a powerful tool, enabling those who provide services to the NHS to work towards the highest possible standards."
Mr Denham said the six areas of assessment would give a clear picture of the issues that matter to patients.
He said: "People want to know that if they are ill they will have equal access to treatment, that they will receive the right treatment and that it will be provided as quickly and efficiently as possible.
"The public want to know that the NHS is providing the highest possible standards of care wherever they live."
The government is also planning to publish the first performance indicators on clinical care in NHS hospitals later this year.
Shadow Health Secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "It is all very well having performance targets - I am glad that Labour have finally acknowledged the value of such initiatives which were championed by the Conservatives - but if doctors and patients cannot use these indicators to decide where the best place for them to go for treatment is, they are not much use.
"Labour have done all they can to remove patient and doctor choice from our health service.
"This is a backward step which will only be detrimental to patient care and the overall quality of treatment."
NHS bosses positive
Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said the new indicators would provide a more useful indication of the quality of patient care than "crude league tables".
"One concern is that at a time when the NHS is under pressure to reduce management costs, considerable effort will be required to collect the data for each indicator," he said.
Mr Thornton welcomed the fact that the government had modified some of its original proposals for indicators following consultation, but he said some causes for concern still remained.
"For example, the number of suicides may fluctuate significantly from year to year and so it is difficult to see how this could be an effective measure of the performance of mental health services," he said.
"We are also concerned that some important services such as learning disability appear to be outside the performance framework."