Highest-rated hospitals 'no safer for seriously ill'

Three-star NHS trusts are no safer for patients than zero-rated ones, withseriously ill hospital patients doing just as well in both, researchers say.

Since 2000-01, NHS general hospitals have been assessed and allocated one, two or three stars as a measure of performance.But the system has been dogged by controversy over methods of calculating the measures and whether they are relevant to patients needs.

Researchers from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine examined death rates among patients admitted to the critical care units in 102 hospitals.

The results showed that deaths were 4 per cent lower in three-star hospitals than in zero-star hospitals. But when the figures were adjusted to take account of the seriousness of the cases admitted, there was no difference.

In a paper published online by the British Medical Journal, the authors say: "For adult critical care, star ratings do not reflect the quality of clinical care provided by hospitals."They concluded that the star system should be based on more specialised clinical data, used alongside measures of waiting times and cleanliness.

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