Patients get chance to perform health check on independent healthcare providers

New website service to help patients see performance against standards in private and voluntary sectors

Patients and the public are to have easier access to information on how well healthcare providers in the independent sector are meeting standards.  
The Healthcare Commission today (Wednesday) launches a new web service that provides information about performance in independent acute hospitals, mental health units and independent sector treatment centres.

Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said:

“We want to make sure that patients have access to information about the standards of care they can expect to receive, wherever they receive it. It’s important that patients know that healthcare services meet these standards. All healthcare providers should be accountable to the communities they serve.”

Each independent sector provider is assessed against 32 core standards and a range of service-specific standards. These standards are not the same as the ones that apply to the NHS but they do cover broadly similar issues.  

The standards look at the minimum requirements for a provider to practice, ranging from ensuring that employees are appropriately recruited and receive adequate training to ensuring that medical equipment is decontaminated properly.

In October, the Commission published its annual State of Healthcare Report, which for the first time gave an overall national picture of performance in the independent sector against core minimum standards. The new web service contains the details of how individual independent providers faired against each of those standards, at the time of inspection.

People will be able to search the information by provider name or by postcode, as well as by standard.  To make this information more accessible and relevant to the public, the results have been grouped under four important questions:

  • How safe and clean is the service?
  • How good is the care I will receive?
  • Will I be treated with dignity and respect?
  • How well is the organisation managed?

The commission plans to work with patients, public and the independent sector to further develop the information available.

Ms Walker said: “Patients should be clear that independent providers are inspected against more prescriptive standards than is the case in the NHS. But these standards are important and they must be met.”

If a provider fails to meet standards or comply with regulations, the Commission asks for an action plan. If the problem is not solved within specified timescales, enforcement action can be taken, including prosecution.

“Patient safety is the paramount concern for the Commission,” said Ms Walker.  “If an inspection reveals what we believe to be an unacceptable level of risk, we will take action.  We have the powers to prosecute or cancel registration, though initially we aim to ensure standards are in place.”

In the acute sector: 

  • 6 per cent of establishments met all 32 core standards
  • 33 per cent met at least 29 core standards
  • 6 per cent were “not met” on five or more core standards.  

Looking at core standards in the acute sector where compliance was highest:

  • 98 per cent met the core standard surrounding the sensitive and appropriate         handling of death (core standard C5)
  • 98 per cent met the core standard relating to the ability of personnel to express concerns (C16)
  • 94 per cent met the core standard relating to the provision of appropriate   catering services. (C19)

Looking at core standards in the acute sector where there was room for improvement:

  • 10 per cent were “not met” on the core standard relating to appropriately completed health records (C30)
  • 8 per cent were “not met” on the core standard relating to appropriately recruited, trained and qualified healthcare professionals. (This relates to C10 which refers specifically to trained and qualified healthcare professionals – people who work for but are not directly employed by the organisation, as opposed to staff covered by standard C9).
  • 8 per cent were  “not met” on the core standard relating to minimisation of health care associated infection. (C25)

In its State of Healthcare Report the Commission pointed out that independent providers of mental healthcare were “not met” on a relatively high number of standards.  The NHS pays for around 80 per cent of the patients using these services, including people detained under the Mental Health Act.

In the mental health sector:

  • 3 per cent met all 32 core standards
  • 18 per cent met at least 29 core standards
  • 17 per cent were “not met” on five or more core standards.

Looking at compliance with specific core standards in mental health sector:

  • 95 percent of organisations met core standard C16 which enables staff to raise concerns (C16)
  • 22 per cent of independent mental health providers failed to have an acceptable resuscitation policy (C27)
  • 20 per cent failed to ensure that patients received treatment in premises that are safe and appropriate (C17) 
  • 18 per cent failed to properly monitor quality of treatment and care (C4).            

There are 21 independent sector treatment centres, many newly registered. Inspections have been completed at 11 centres. While compliance was generally good, there remains room for improvement.  

The assessments of the independent sector are not directly comparable with the NHS, as different legislation applies, but there are common themes.

The Commission’s recently published annual health check of NHS trusts showed:

  • 20 per cent of trusts could not assure the Commission that they ensured that healthcare staff attended compulsory training
  • 13 per cent could not assure the Commission that they have systems to ensure that all reusable medical devices are properly decontaminated
  • 12 per cent could not assure the Commission that they have systems to minimise all risks associated with the acquisition and use of medical devices.

The new information on the website will be updated regularly as new inspection reports are produced. The Commission plans to expand the site to include other services such as clinics carrying out termination of pregnancy and cosmetic laser procedures.  

More information can be found on



Information on the Healthcare Commission
The Healthcare Commission started work on 1 April 2004. The organisation was created under the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003.

The Healthcare Commission is chaired by Professor Sir Ian Kennedy and has a board of 14 commissioners. Anna Walker is Chief Executive of the Commission and leads a senior management team of six. Its staff are based in London, Nottingham, Leeds, Bristol and Manchester.

The Healthcare Commission’s role is complemented by specific new arrangements for the inspection of healthcare in Wales that also began on 1 April 2004. Responsibility for local inspection and investigation of NHS bodies in Wales rests with the new Healthcare Inspectorate Wales (HIW), based within the National Assembly for Wales.

The Healthcare Commission does not cover Scotland as it has its own body, NHS Quality Improvement Scotland. The HPSS Regulation and Improvement Authority (HPSSRIA) undertakes regular reviews of the quality of services in Northern Ireland.

Further information on the Healthcare Commission is available on

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