Failing hospitals will be "named and shamed" under radical plans to improve standards within the National Health Service, the Government said yesterday.
Gordon Brown, the Chancellor, hinted there would a move towards hospital league tables so that the cost for treatments such as hip replacement operations could be compared. While cataract operations cost between £660 and £950, hip replacements vary in cost between £3,200 and £4,200, he said.
Mr Brown added that a three-point action plan to bring about a "step change" in the NHS' performance was part of the Government's pledge to provide extra resources.
The proposals are part of wider plans to expose Britain's dirtiest and least competent hospitals publicly in a hotel-style system of ratings.
Under the star system, hospitals would be starved of cash and the increases of spending and salaries of senior managers frozen unless standards improved.
Each would be awarded up to five stars on 20 different criteria, from cleanliness and clinical quality, to waiting lists and the proportion of patients successfully treated.
Mr Brown told BBC's Breakfast with Frost: "There are three things we are going to do. There is going to be more information available for the patients. In a sense, we are moving towards league tables.
"Secondly, there is going to be better inspection and we are looking at whether we can combine financial inspection, which would come with the Audit Commission, with medical inspection, which would come from what is called the Commission for Health Improvement. And the third thing is incentives, so that good hospitals and the good performers will get the chance to do more."
Tony Blair and Alan Milburn, the Health Secretary, will meet leading doctors at a meeting on Wednesday to discuss how standards can be raised.
Earlier, Mr Brown was accused of misleading the public with his Budget pledge to provide an extra 10,000 nurses.Tories attacked the Chancellor after Mr Milburn said that the number would "make good" an earlier promise to recruit 15,000 nurses in 1998.
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