The Department of Health has approved plans for healthcare providers to publish annual Quality Accounts on the NHS Choices website in an effort to increase accountability, drive quality and improve patient choice.

The plans follow a three month public consultation, which finished in December, on the proposed framework for Quality Accounts, ahead of the legal requirement for all providers of NHS healthcare to publish them.

The consultation proposed that providers should present nationally mandated information in the form of specified statements to the health secretary and to the public.

The statements include the need for a “simple data quality score” from organisations, using four key indicators to highlight data quality and its relation to quality healthcare.

The indicators comprise the percentage of records submitted for inclusion in Hospital Episode Statistics with a valid NHS Number and valid GP registration code; the trust’s error rate for clinical coding; and the trust’s score for information quality and records management, assessed using the information governance toolkit.

Out of 170 responses, 69 were in favour of the statement on the quality of data compared to 26 who were opposed, although concerns were raised about whether the information would be too difficult for patients to understand.

Ninety respondents were in favour of publishing the accounts on the NHS Choices website, compared to 14 who were opposed.

Alongside the mandatory statement on data quality, all organisations will also need to provide an overall statement of accountability and confirmation that the organisation has identified key improvement issues.

They will also have to demonstrate that the organisation is monitoring quality by participating in clinical audits, show that it participates in clinical research and provide a statement on the status of its Care Quality Commission registration.

The regulations will come into force for acute trusts on 1 April 2010, with hospitals having to publish their “latest available data” by June 2010.

Primary care trusts will be expected to publish their data by June 2011, subject to a pilot of the accounts for primary and community care, which is about to begin in two strategic health authorities.

It is expected that the costs for a provider to produce a quality report are likely to be £14,000-22,000.

The consultation response details that providers with less than 50 fulltime employees or an NHS contract worth less than £130,000 will be exempt from having to provide the accounts due to the “additional financial and workforce burden.”

Link: A framework for quality accounts – response to consultation