‘Ofsted-style’ Ratings System for Care Homes

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has proposed an “Ofsted-style” ratings system for hospitals and care homes in England. These proposals on how the NHS could use a grading system similar to that in schools will be reviewed by think tank the Nuffield Trust.

The Health Secretary hopes a new system will help end the ‘crisis of care’. These recommendations come after last week’s CQC report found that services were struggling. The report showed that overall one in four services in England failed at least one of the 16 key standards.

The proposed grading system was announced by Jeremy Hunt who said “as an MP I know how well each school in my constituency is doing thanks to independent and thorough Ofsted inspections. But because the CQC only measures whether minimum standards have been reached, I do not know the same about hospitals and care homes. I am not advocating a return to the old ‘star ratings’ but the principle that there should be an easy-to-understand, independent and expert assessment of how well somewhere is doing relative to its peers must be right.”

The CQC previously had a quality grading system called “star ratings” where three stars were given to excellent providers and providers with poor standards received no stars. This system ended in July 2010, having been criticised for setting too high a level and not giving an accurate picture of care within a health trust.

The Nuffield Trust is commissioning an independent study to look at how a new ratings system could work which is expected to report back with recommendations by the end of March 2013. Jennifer Dixon, the director of the Trust said “it’s a sensible question to ask about how the quality of care is assessed in health and social care providers, given all the systems currently in place to boost and monitor quality for the public. At the Nuffield Trust we look forward to doing an independent analysis of this issue working with a range of groups across the health and social care world in the UK, learning from past experience, from other sectors, and from other countries”.

David Rogers from the Local Government Association warns that the system needs to be well managed and said “providing greater clarity would undoubtedly provide much needed assurances for those who are naturally looking for the very best care and support in old age. But for a rating to be reliable and trusted it also needs to be current and reflect the true picture of the level of service a care home provides. This means ratings would need to be provided regularly, and certainly be no more than two years old. For assessments to reflect a true picture they should also take into account the information that is already available, the views of people who use the service, and information from local authorities and other organisations involved in providing care”.

The aims of the proposed ratings system are as follows:

  • No increase in bureaucracy
  • Easy-to-understand results
  • Drives organisations to excel
  • Greater certainty of identifying poor care

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