19 June 2008
Quality, safety and commissioning have been highlighted as the crucial drivers for future improvements to the NHS, according to a survey of senior managers.
The poll, published by the NHS Confederation on June 18 to mark the start of its annual conference in Manchester, found that the vast majority of health service leaders – 96% – are optimistic about the prospects for significant improvement.
The survey found that, in acute trusts, patient safety was seen as the biggest driver of improvement, followed by quality and integration between primary and secondary care.
In primary care, the drive for world-class commissioning was identified as the most important factor in improving services, followed by the shift from secondary to primary care, then quality and safety.
NHS Confederation president Bryan Stoten said: 'As NHS leaders we believe markets are important but quality and safety trump everything. I concur completely – these must be right at the heart of our improvement agenda.'
The main threats to reform were identified as the economic downturn, rising prices and further structural change in the health service. 'NHS leaders are understandably cynical about reassurances from the government and political parties around structural change,' Stoten said.
He added that NHS managers should not wait for policy to be delivered from on high. 'The future of the NHS is in our hands. We need to make our own weather. We will need to get much smarter at looking ahead and get better at strategic planning.'
At the conference, Health Secretary Alan Johnson announced new moves to assess the quality of nursing care, including rating nurses for compassion, promoting hand-washing and reducing the number of falls on wards.
Johnson said: 'Our nurses know instinctively that a patient's understanding of quality in the NHS is about much more than excellent clinical care.
'The personal touch is so important too. Patients want to be kept well informed by staff and treated with compassion and sensitivity. [Nurses] want to do everything possible to improve the already high standards of care in the NHS. Measuring quality against indicators such as dignity, respect and communication will help them achieve this.'
Peter Carter, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing, said: 'We are delighted that the government has recognised the need to measure quality in nursing care. These new standards are groundbreaking in that they will directly recognise nurses for the kind of care that patients really value.'