NHS :: Confederation expresses concern over development of annual health check

The body that represents more than 90 per cent of NHS organisations has made strong recommendations to the Commission about the development of the annual health check amidst fears that the process is becoming too bureaucratic and cumbersome, therefore potentially damaging what it is setting out to achieve – better NHS performance and improved quality of care.

Crucially, the annual health check should not be seen as an end in itself, but instead a means to help deliver better services for patients.

Last week saw the close of the Commission’s consultation on the development of the 2007/08 annual health check. Whilst agreeing that assessing the performance of NHS organisations is vital for public confidence and improving services, the Confederation is becoming increasingly concerned about the future of this process.

Dr Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said:

‘We believe there is a careful balance to be struck between good regulation that can have a role in helping trusts drive improvement and bad regulation which due to its enormous scope and burdensome nature has a negative impact on services.

‘The latest consultation on the annual health check comes dangerously close to tipping this balance in our view.’

In its response to the consultation the Confederation outlines three areas for concern over the development of the annual health check:

An aim of Government is to reduce bureaucracy and streamline regulatory functions, yet the Healthcare Commission is simultaneously extending its remit and responsibilities to an extent which is bordering on performance management. This is inappropriate when there is a drive to give local NHS organisations more power and autonomy to run local services

A framework is needed that prioritises the issues that matter to patients. It needs to measure patient outcomes rather than processes, leaving the development and improvement agenda to individual NHS organisations

A successful regulatory regime must avoid a complex and bureaucratic system – one that helps NHS organisations improve their performance, not hinder it through cumbersome, time consuming processes.

Dr Morgan, concluded:

‘We must ensure that our regulatory system is fit for purpose. Unless the Healthcare Commission takes on board the views of the NHS we run the risk of jeopardising what we’re all working so hard to achieve – a world class health service for patients.’

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