Health department to be given Ofsted-style ratings on delivery of care pledges

Move to boost oversight of DHSC intended to boost patient care, says panel chair
The Department of Health and Social Care. Photo: PA

By Eleanor Langford

05 Aug 2020

The government’s key health promises are to be independently evaluated and handed ratings on whether they are being met under a new scheme launched by a the health and social care select committee.

The cross party committee of MPs is drafting in Professor Dame Jane Dacre, president of the Medical Protection Society and former president of the Royal College of Physicians to chair an independent panel which will track progress on major pledges.

The move, which comes amid ongoing inquiries into the coronavirus pandemic, will see MPs and the panel decide which areas of health policy to focus on, before the panel weighs up the evidence on how ministers are progressing and publishes their findings.

Their analysis will include a rating of either 'outstanding', 'good', 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' for its progress – the same scale used by the Care Quality Commission to rate providers, and by Ofsted to rate schools and other education establishments.

Jeremy Hunt, chair of the committee, said he hoped the initiative would “focus attention on areas such as cancer, mental health and patient safety where a number of vital commitments have been made”.

Professor Dacre told CSW’s sister title PoliticsHome that she wanted the new system to help “improve patient care”.

“There's often a lot of published feedback on government pledges that have been made, but then the world moves on and sometimes those pledges are not achieved," Professor Dacre said.

“So some objective and impartial feedback to the government about what's been achieved and what hasn't been achieved is likely to help them to achieve what they set out to do and to support patients that way.”

Professor Dacre will be joined by two further medical experts on the panel.

The remaining six members will be recruited provisionally for each report based on their expertise in that subject, and will include clinicians, policy experts and those who have used the relevant health or care service.

When asked about the impartiality of the panel, Professor Dacre added: “I regard myself as impartial, and we wouldn't select to the panel people that have a particular political axe to grind.

“I think health care, because it's very expensive, often becomes very political.

"But, at the end of the day, there are patients who need to be served and who need to be cared for and who need to be kept safe.”

Evidence gathering for the panel’s first evaluation, focusing on maternity services, is set to begin in the autumn, with the report likely to be published in early 2021.

And Professor Dacre said that if the model is successful, “there's no reason why it shouldn't be rolled out to other areas and other select committees”.

She continued: “Let's try it out first. We mustn't run before we can walk.

"This is a pilot, we're going to try it out in one area to start with and that is what I've been tasked to do in the first instance. I'm sure that the process that we use will be improved and honed."

Eleanor Langford is a reporter at Civil Service World's sister title PoliticsHome, where a version of this story was first published.

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