Chief inspector for hospitals calls for tougher approach

The process used for the inspection of hospitals in England is not tough enough according to man in charge of inspections. New chief inspector Professor Sir Mike Richards has claimed that in order to drive up standards in English NHS hospitals a new approach to inspection will be needed which will be tougher than the methods used in recent years.

The calls for tougher measures come in the wake of Keogh review into failing hospitals, the findings of which were published earlier this summer. During the review, investigators found that a number of hospitals had unacceptably high death rates which resulted in punishments for a number of NHS trusts and a loss of public confidence.

Sir Mike Richards disapproval of the system used by hospital inspectors previously has led him to propose a range of new inspection guidelines which will prove tougher for hospitals in a bid to improve patient safety.

There is a focus on taking more time to scrutinise practices across the whole hospital with inspectors now required to inspect all areas over a longer two day period. Accident and emergency units will be inspected particularly closely. Similarly to the system used to inspect the nation’s schools, a rating system will also be brought in with hospitals being identified as “outstanding” or “inadequate” for example. The new system will also focus in on certain statistics such as death rates and patient satisfaction levels so that is clearer both for hospitals and patients how the hospital is performing. This is in response to the fact that the 1200 indicators currently in use are too confusing.

Under the new system, panels made up of patients and practising healthcare professionals will be set up in order to form inspection teams of twenty. The inspection teams used previously were made up of just four or five inspectors and it is hoped that greater scrutiny will be achieved from larger teams.

It is hoped that the all 161 NHS trusts in England will be inspected by December 2015 with the first group of eighteen inspections starting in the next couple of months.

Whilst we like to believe that the NHS and its staff will always be able to protect us and provide a high quality of care, the number of recent revelations about negligent medical professionals and falling standards suggest that sometimes that is not the case.

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