The Government is to introduce 60 new goals that NHS hospitals and doctors are to be judged against in a move it hopes will save thousands of lives a year.
Benchmarks such as preventing unnecessary early deaths and improving the quality of life for people with long-term conditions will replace the target system introduced by Labour to assess the success of the NHS.
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Health Secretary Andrew Lansley says the benchmarks will “define what the NHS is setting out to achieve”.
The new system will focus on patients’ experience of the NHS – and not the speed of which they were treated – in an attempt to drive performance levels.
The use of comprehensive data on hospital death rates, the performances of GPs and surgeons and surveys from patients to gauge their satisfaction of the standard of care they received and their speed of recovery will all be analysed to assess whether benchmarks have been met. The views of bereaved relations and children for the first time will also be obtained as part of the Government’s plans.
“This is literally saying to patients ‘if you were in hospital, if you were being looked after by your general practitioner was the service and experience you had good or not?’” said Andrew Lansley. “It’s not like some other kinds of medical model where you kind of treat people and they get better. This is different. This is really where you begin to kind of focus on the experience of care.”
“We’ll be undertaking a consistent national survey of the bereaved relatives of people who received end of life care,” Mr Lansley said. “Asking them, after a suitable passage of time, what was their loved one’s experience of care and how well were they looked after towards the end of life.”
If the new standards are to be achieved, the Health Secretary believes that up to 24,000 early deaths a year could be prevented from cancer and other long-term conditions. Mr Lansley also hopes the new measures will increase access to NHS dentists and see fewer people with long-term conditions treated in hospitals. Patients undergoing routine hip and knee operations will no longer be left in pain or unable to walk, the Health Secretary pledged.
Mr Lansley said that his time as Health Secretary will not have been successful if the new benchmarks do not improve the NHS by the next general election.
“We have to clear the decks and be clear this is what we are focusing on,” he said. “People say in three and a half years’ time, in 2015, at the next election, how will we know whether you’ve succeeded or not? The answer is ‘have the outcomes improved? It will be my failure if we haven’t improved them and the NHS should feel that it has not succeeded, that is what we are setting out to do.
“We’ve really got to get into the big picture, which is delivering improvements in the results we achieve for patients right across the board. We know that we can do it.”
The Government will also publish current performance data for the first time for each of the benchmarks in an attempt, Ministers hope, will force up standards.
Shadow Health Secretary Andy Burnham said the new measures would not be received well by those working within the NHS. “Doctors and nurses will roll their eyes in sheer disbelief at this news,” he said.
“The Government that promised to scrap NHS targets now loads 60 new targets on an NHS already under severe pressure. It will add red tape and bureaucracy just as the NHS is struggling to cope with the financial challenge and the biggest reorganisation in its history.”