The Healthcare Commission was a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department of Health of the United Kingdom. It was set up to promote and drive improvement in the quality of health care and public health in England and Wales. It aimed to achieve this by becoming an authoritative and trusted source of information and by ensuring that this information is used to drive improvement. The Commission was abolished on 31 March 2009 and its responsibilities in England broadly subsumed by the Care Quality Commission.
The Healthcare Commission had a role in promoting quality in healthcare through providing an independent assessment of the standards of services provided by the National Health Service (NHS), private healthcare and voluntary organisations in England.
The Healthcare Commission did this by:
- regulating and inspecting NHS, private and voluntary healthcare providers
- reviewing formal complaints about the NHS that have not been resolved
- handling complaints about private and voluntary healthcare service providers
- investigating serious failures in NHS, private and voluntary services
The commission also had the responsibility of coordinating organisations that inspect, regulate or audit health bodies. In order to do this, it established the Concordat between bodies inspecting, regulating and auditing health or social care.
These functions applied in England, though the Healthcare Commission had a limited role in Wales, complemented by that of Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, which is part of the National Assembly for Wales. The ability to inspect all sectors, provide guidance and act if that guidance is not acted on was possible because the Healthcare Commission is independent of the government.
The Healthcare Commission took over the role of the Commission for Health Improvement (CHI) on the 1 April 2004 and also assumed some of the responsibilities of the National Care Standards Commission (NCSC) and the Audit Commission, as well as a number of additional functions.
The legal name for the Healthcare Commission was the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection (CHAI). It was created by the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003.
The Health and Social Care Act 2008 replaced the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission with a single, integrated regulator for health and adult social care - the Care Quality Commission. The Care Quality Commission began operating on 1 April 2009 as a non-departmental public body.
Annual health check
For the first two years of its existence, the Healthcare Commission continued the annual reporting of NHS providers using star ratings where NHS trusts were awarded one, two or three stars based upon their performance measured against clinical targets.
From 2006, an annual health check replaced the 'star ratings' assessment system and looked at a much broader range of issues than the targets used previously. It sought to make much better use of the data, judgements and expertise of others to focus on measuring what matters to people who use and provide healthcare services. Trusts had to declare their compliance with the core standards set out in Standards for Better Health, published by the Department of Health in 2004.
The overall aim of the new assessment of performance, and the information gained through the process, was to promote improvements in healthcare. The annual health check process was designed to use views of patients and users of services as well as robust data sources for the arms-length monitoring of clinical performance. This lessening of the target setting by Whitehall was in line with the 'light touch' strategy set out by Gordon Brown in his 2005 budget and compatible with the vision proposed by David Cameron at the 2006 Conservative conference. It also aimed to help people to make better informed decisions about their care, promote the sharing of information and give clearer expectations on standards of performance.
The new ratings effectively graded NHS organisations on the quality of services and use of resources with services deemed to be one of four levels: Weak - Fair - Good - Excellent. Trusts that met the clinical targets used in the previous star ratings achieved a rating of Fair. Good and Excellent ratings were awarded to organisations that could demonstrate that they had processes in place to improve their services.
The Healthcare Commission aimed to promote improvement in the quality of NHS and independent healthcare across England and Wales. Among the Commission's functions, these mainly included:
- to independently inspect health services from patients' perspective, using standards set out by the Department of Health
- to coordinate NHS inspections with a range of other healthcare organisations in order to minimise disruption to doctors and nurses
- to identify how effectively public funds are used within healthcare - particularly whether tax payers are getting good value for money
- to develop an independent second stage for complaints about the NHS which cannot be resolved locally
- to investigate serious failures in healthcare services
- to publish regular ratings of NHS trusts in England and an annual report on healthcare in England and Wales.
- ^ https://www.healthcarecommission.org.uk/_db/_documents/Healthcare_Commission_and_Wales_2004-08.pdf
- ^ Office of Public Sector Information - Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003
- ^ Office of Public Sector Information - Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003 (pdf)
- ^ UK Statute Law Database - Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003
- ^ Healthcare Commission - Commission members
- ^ Healthcare Commission - Executive Team
- ^ Office of Public Sector Information - Health and Social Care Act 2008
- ^ Office of Public Sector Information - Health and Social Care Act 2008 (pdf)
- ^ Department of Health press release, 16 November 2007
- ^ Healthcare Commission - The annual health check
- ^ (pdf) Standards for Better Health. Department of Health. 2004-07-21. http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/publicationsandstatistics/publications/publicationspolicyandguidance/dh_4086665. Retrieved 2008-09-08.
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