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70% of PCTs failing patient choice, says Healthcare Commission

18 October 2007

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The Healthcare Commission today (18 October 2007) published performance ratings for all NHS trusts in England, showing overall improvement in quality of services and use of resources.

This is despite recent findings of significant failings in infection control at Maidstone and Tunbridge Wells NHS Trusts.

However, 70% of primary care trusts (PCTs) failed the target relating to “convenience and choice”, which says that patients should be able to choose from at least four providers paid for by the NHS.

The independent watchdog is releasing the results of the 2006/07 annual health check of NHS trusts, the most comprehensive assessment of NHS performance.

“Convenience and choice” was the worst area of performance in any of the existing national targets. The reasons for this, says the Healthcare Commission, include the fact that GPs are not contractually obliged to offer Choose and Book, and the intermittent technical problems with the necessary computer systems.

Against a background of tough targets, 62% of PCTs were “fair” and 12% were “weak” for quality of services – the picture was similar for use of resources.

Areas of weak performance included Choose and Book and updating practice-based registers. The 72 PCTs reorganised in October 2006 performed the least well.

Niall Dickson, Chief Executive of healthcare think tank the King’s Fund, says: “This report indicates that too many patients are still not being given choice about how and where they are treated.

“It is clear that PCTs are struggling to make choice a reality under the current system, and more attention must be paid to this.

“Reports like this are useful in giving patients and others information about performance and standards but that is just the first step.

“Only when patients are given the power to use the information to decide, along with their practitioner, what is best for them will the NHS be able to say it is delivering truly personalised care.”

Healthcare Commission

King’s Fund