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Health News

Hospital wards will have to ask for marks out of five

Anyone admitted to hospital will soon be able to see what former patients thought of the care they received on a ward-by-ward basis, the NHS will announce today.

Under plans for a significant shake-up of the way in which the health service responds to criticism, in the wake of the Mid-Staffordshire scandal, hospitals are being required from this week to ask all patients to rate the care they receive on a scale of one to five. The information, collected as patients are discharged, will be collated for every specialism and ward and published on a monthly basis – allowing future patients to choose where to have an operation or procedure.

The first results will be publicly available in June but will be made available to hospital staff in advance, in an attempt to drive up standards. Trials of the scheme in the East of England over the past year have revealed huge variations.

While Papworth Hospital in Cambridge and James Paget Hospital in Great Yarmouth both received average scores of more than 90 out of 100, hospitals in Coventry and King's Lynn failed to score above 50.

Overall the number of patients saying they would recommend the hospital they were treated at rose from 69 per cent to 75 per over the survey period.

NHS managers hope that when the scheme is rolled out nationally it will increase pressure on failing hospitals to improve, and provide a "morale boost" to those doing well. In addition the detailed nature of the information being collected will allow hospital boards to quickly identify areas of weakness and address them.

Senior clinical leaders believe it is vital that such information is made available as quickly as possible to identify problems caused by staff shortages or lack of leadership. They point out that some wards considered to be performing well can quickly deteriorate if key staff leave. Ultimately they hope that the information will be made available to managers on a weekly basis.

Any patient who says they would not recommend the hospital to a loved one will be asked to give details, in confidence, of their stay.

In order to ensure that patients are not put off from giving frank responses they will be given a range of ways to provide feedback. These will include telephone and online surveys as well as pre-paid postcards.

To avoid the risk of compromising confidentiality, where there are less than five patient responses for a given ward in a single month the results will not be published.

Initially the new feedback will cover anyone who is admitted to hospital for more than one night or who attended A&E. It will then be rolled out to maternity services in October.

Tim Kelsey, NHS England's national director for patients and information, said: "When regular feedback from patients reaches ward or A&E staff, it can have a tremendous impact in a really short space of time."

During the trial of the scheme some hospitals scored below 50 out of 100 while others were in the 90s