Andrew Lansley has called on the NHS to focus on “what really matters” as he prepares to announce plans to judge hospitals and doctors against 60 new goals that are designed to save more than 20,000 lives a year.The Health Secretary has unveiled a new system to assess success in the health service based on the quality of care patients receive – not merely the speed at which they are treated.
Comprehensive data on hospital death rates, the individual performance of GPs and surgeons and patients’ experiences under their care are to be published in an attempt to improve standards.
Mr Lansley has set out 60 benchmarks that will replace Labour’s system of targets and will be used to define success in the NHS.
These include a commitment to preventing unnecessary early deaths, a pledge to enhance the quality of life for people with long-term conditions and a drive to ensure that people have a positive experience when using the health service.
If the new standards are achieved, 24,000 early deaths a year could be prevented from cancer and other long-term conditions, Mr Lansley believes.
In addition, fewer people with long-term conditions including asthma and diabetes will be treated in hospitals, he will claim, while patients undergoing routine hip and knee operations will no longer be left in pain or unable to walk.
Access to NHS dentists will also be improved, he will say.
The Cabinet minister said the record on unnecessary early deaths varied across specialties as he urged the health service to focus on “what really matters” – the results achieved for patients and their experiences while being treated.
“If you look at the question of how many patients in this country die who could live if they got the best health care, it is literally over 10,000 patients a year if we were simply to get to a place which is better than the average across the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) countries.”
In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Mr Lansley says his tenure as Health Secretary will have been a “failure” if the 60 new “outcome” targets do not improve by the next election. He pledges that the benchmarks will now “define what the NHS is setting out to achieve”.
“We have to clear the decks and be clear this is what we are focusing on,” he says. “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.”
Next week, the Government will set out current performance for each of the 60 indicators. It will then set out national targets for improvement “by the time of the next election and beyond”.
The new NHS Commissioning Board and the Care Quality Commission will also intervene directly to address problems that are highlighted by the data.
In today’s interview, Mr Lansley says that the long-running row over NHS reform must end and the health service must concentrate on improving patient care.
“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,” he said. “We know that we can do it.”
The benchmarks will be monitored partly through studying clinical data – for example, to ascertain whether mortality rates for cancer, liver and heart disease are improving — and partly through surveying patients to gauge whether they were satisfied by the standard of care they received and the speed of their recovery.
The Health Secretary says: “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?’ 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.”
For the first time, the views of bereaved relations and even children will be surveyed so that the quality of NHS care from early years until death can be assessed.
“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.”