Quality control

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WHEN he was the Conservatives’ opposition spokesman on health, Andrew Lansley repeatedly accused the then Labour government of strangling the NHS with unnecessary red tape.

Now Mr Lansley faces a similar accusation from his opponents after he revealed 60 new performance indicators as part of a new move to improve the quality of care provided by hospitals across the country.

It is indicative of the public’s declining confidence in care, illustrated recently by a number of high-profile cases, that the Health Secretary feels that he needs to devise such a strategy after scrapping many of the targets which he inherited 18 months ago.

That Mr Lansley wants to place a greater premium on the quality of hospital treatment is welcome; one reason why local budgets are so stretched is because of the number of patients who have to be readmitted because their initial care was inadequate.

Doctors will say this is because of the pressures they face, and that the strict nature of some of the Minister’s new guidelines will make little material difference to the fact that their patient lists are growing each year.

And while those with a particular interest in the care of the elderly will note the onus on more patients aged over 65 being at home 91 days after their discharge from hospital, Mr Lansley’s framework does not provide any more resources to help people with frailties, or disabilities, to remain in their own home in the long-term.

With future cuts to town hall budgets likely to outstrip planned increases in NHS spending nationally, finance – rather than the reworking of targets and red tape rules – is likely to be the crucial factor that determines whether the treatment of patients actually improves in the years to come.