HL Deb 21 July 2004 vol 664 cc28-30WS
Lord Warner

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Health has tabled the following Written Ministerial Statement today.

I am publishing today National Standards, Local Action: Health and Social Care Standards and Planning Framework 2005–06–2007–08, incorporating Standards for Better Health. This will support the National Health Service and social care in taking forward the agenda set out in the NHS Improvement Plan, setting out a framework for continuing quality improvement.

Much progress has already been made across the NHS. Waiting times are falling, mortality rates for the major diseases are down and there are more NHS staff treating NHS patients. The development of clinical governance, the establishment of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, the publication of national service frameworks and the establishment of independent inspectorates for health and for social care have set a framework for safe, high-quality care. This is underpinned by the NHS Improvement Plan, which sets out a programme for further progress and clear improvements in health outcomes and patient care.

Standards for Better Health and National Standards, Local Action together set out a new approach that will deliver this agenda, with reduced national targets underpinned by robust standards to drive up quality and safety. NHS patients are entitled to care that is safe and effective and Standards for Better Health sets out the standards that all providers and commissioners of NHS care are expected to meet to deliver safe and effective care.

The standards-driven approach set out in these two documents establishes an integrated framework for performance improvement, setting the parameters for local plans and targets, independent inspection by the Healthcare Commission and CSCI and performance assessment and ratings.

Standards for Better Health is published by the Secretary of State for Health under Section 46 of the Health and Social Care (Community Health and Standards) Act 2003. Standards for Better Health follows a formal consultation on draft proposals in the spring and defines standards covering the full spectrum of healthcare from public health through to acute care, which have been developed with two principal objectives. First, they include a set of core standards which provide a common set of requirements applying across all healthcare organisations to ensure that the health services that are provided are both safe and of an acceptable quality.

Secondly, there is a set of developmental standards providing a framework for continuous improvement in the overall quality of care people receive. Setting developmental standards in this way ensures that the extra resources being directed to the NHS are used to help to raise the level of performance measurably year on year.

Standards for Better Health will apply with immediate effect to all healthcare organisations in England, including NHS foundation trusts. All those providing or commissioning NHS healthcare in England will have to take them into account when planning or commissioning healthcare services.

The Healthcare Commission will measure performance against the standards and take progress against national and local targets developed in line with National Standards, Local Action into account in its annual reviews and assessments of healthcare by (and for) each NHS body in England, including NHS foundation trusts. By delivering on targets that relate directly to healthcare standards, NHS bodies will be able to demonstrate to the commission that they are performing well against those standards.

In Standards for Better Health, for the first time the Government are setting out a comprehensive statement of the standards that NHS bodies and providers of NHS care are expected to meet. Standards for Better Health will act as a key driver for quality improvement throughout the NHS, but one aim has been to clarify and to reduce the large number of requirements and standards that have in the past been set centrally, either directly from the department itself or by its arm's length bodies. Some of the department's own standards and requirements are currently under review and the review of arm's length bodies will provide an opportunity to change some of the requirements that they currently impose.

The development of the new high-level standards represents the first step toward simplifying and rationalising the expectations on the service. Taken alongside the reduced requirements in National Standards, Local Action this will give organisations greater flexibility for local innovation, underpinned by a strong focus on safe, effective healthcare and improvements in the outcomes that matter most for patients and service users driving forward the programme set out in the NHS Improvement Plan.

Copies of National Standards, Local Action have been placed in the Library.