Patients are being left in the dark because of “major gaps” in information on the quality of care, according to a report commissioned by the Health Secretary.
The UK healthcare system lacks a “comprehensive and trusted” source of information and ‘Ofsted-style’ ratings of GP practices and care homes “could be useful for the public” the report said.
“One aggregate, comprehensive rating of providers may provide more clarity and simplicity for the public, especially if it came from one 'official' trusted source,” said Dr Jennifer Dixon, Nuffield Trust chief executive.
Dr Mark Porter, chair of the British Medical Association (BMA) Council said: "It’s important that patients have access to meaningful information about the quality of services.”
‘Clarity’ for commissioners
However, if the government decides to bring in the rating system, the review warned it could place an extra burden on commissioners.
There should be more clarity on how the system will fit with commissioning to help support providers and the regulators, Nuffield Trust said.
The rating system should link with other systems designed to investigate the quality of care, the report said, with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) carrying out the ratings.
Care Quality Commission
The CQC was singled out because it “already carries out many tasks which would support a rating” such as inspection and data analysis.
In a statement the Royal College of Nurses agreed that the CQC is “best placed to develop any rating system”.
But the report went on to admit that having the CQC take up ratings would “shift the organisation’s focus beyond its current role around compliance regulation”
This would require additional resources, significant support and “a forgiving timetable”, according to the Nuffield Trust.
GP surgeries and social care would benefit most from the rating system rather than hospitals, which are too large and complex the report noted.
The BMA raised concerns that creating a “simplistic” performance measurement could result in a “target-driven culture”.
Dr Mark Porter said: “GP surgeries often have many staff and offer a range of different services, the quality of which would be difficult to reduce to a meaningful single score.
“Data will only be useful if patients can make sense of it, and if it allows GPs to make improvements.”