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EDITIONS
NHS reform Thursday, 27 July, 2000, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Variations in care targeted
Improving clinical performance
Ministers want to end the postcode lottery of care
The government has made a commitment to stamp out variations in care across the NHS.

The national plan pledges to improve overall standards across the health service, including everything from surgery to cleanliness.

The government has given 30m to hospitals this week to embark on a clean-up operation.

It has also given the go-ahead to a new 24-hour NHS catering service which will have its own menu designed "by leading chefs".

Ministers have pledged to ensure clinical care in the NHS is of the highest standards.

Those hospitals that achieve best practice in the future will be rewarded with greater freedom and money to pursue their plans. Those that are found to be failing will be "punished".

To enable this, every hospital and primary care group will be graded on a "traffic lights" basis.

The Changes
"Traffic lights" grading systems for hospitals
Rewards for hospitals that achieve high standards
Sanctions against failing hospitals
NHS cleaning campaign launched
Hospital food to be improved
Umbrella body to oversee the GMC

"Green" organisations will be those that meet all national targets and whose performance puts them in the top 25%.

They will be given greater autonomy, automatic access to additional funding and will be subject to less inspection.

"Yellow" organisations will be meeting most or all of the targets but are outside the top 25%. They will have to agree how their extra funding will be spent with officials.

"Red" organisations will be those that are failing to meet targets. They will be given outside help to improve their performance and could be taken over by senior managers.

Ministers are also hoping to reduce variations in care by harnessing the benefits of technology.

Patients are to be given smart cards to ensure their medical records can be accessed more easily by other health professionals.

GP surgeries will carry out more diagnoses using video and tele-links to hospital specialists.

Ambulances will be equipped with video and monitoring equipment to provide the most appropriate care for accident victims.

But the government has pledged to crack down on doctors that are failing to meet the expected standards.

A new National Clinical Assessment Authority is to be established to provide "a rapid and objective expert assessment of an individual doctor's performance" where concerns have been raised.

An umbrella organisation will oversee the work of the General Medical Council and the nurses regulatory body. The UK Council for Health Regulators will co-ordinate work between the different organisations.

Every doctor will also be required to undergo an annual appraisal to ensure they are keeping up to date.

Health authorities will be given new powers to sack GPs who are failing to maintain standards.

See also:

13 Jun 00 | Health
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