Annual Health Check Shows Improvements Across NHS

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The Healthcare Commission (HC), England's healthcare watchdog, has today published its Annual Health Check - the toughest and most comprehensive assessment of the NHS. The report shows significant improvements across the health service with 42 trusts rated as 'excellent', over twice as many as last year.

Major improvement has been made at all levels with only six trusts receiving weak ratings for both quality and finance, a reduction from 20 on the previous Health Check. The report particularly commends the progress made in ambulance response times, infection control and waits for cancer treatment.

Commenting on the report Secretary of State for Health Alan Johnson said:

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"The progress being made by the NHS at both ends of the scale means real benefits for patients in the quality of care they receive. Sixty percent of Trusts are now rated as excellent to good - two years ago 60 percent were fair or poor. I congratulate those trusts that have achieved top ratings and thank all staff involved for their hard work and dedication to raising standards.

"I also thank the Healthcare Commission for its commitment to improving Healthcare. The success highlighted in this report would not be possible without its rigorous monitoring and ongoing support. We will now work with the Healthcare Commission to address any areas of weakness which still exist to ensure all patients receive high quality care."

The Annual Health Check is an important tool for measuring performance across the NHS and identifying areas for improvement. The Department of Health (DH) is working with the HC to take action against trusts that have performed badly. Any trust scoring 'weak' in either quality or finance will be asked to prepare an action plan by 23 October, detailing steps taken and further plans to address weaknesses. In addition, DH will be meeting with trusts scoring 'weak' in both components to address concerns. All action plans will be monitored and trusts will be revisited in the New Year.

This is the third Annual Health Check produced by the HC and shows improvement for the second year running. This is testament to the important role the Healthcare Commission plays in measuring and improving performance. From April next year the Care Quality Commission will replace the HC and work with the NHS to report on performance and advise where improvement is needed.

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