NHS Needs To Step Up On Measuring Quality In Community Health Care Services

National bodies need to step up to improve quality measurement in community services and provide local leaders with greater support to manage the process effectively, according to a new report by The King’s Fund.

Managing quality in community healthcare services suggests that providers are severely hampered by a lack of national indicators to help measure performance; this lack of data means the quality of services and details of patient outcomes remain largely unknown at national level. This presents a serious risk that poor and declining quality cannot be quickly identified, particularly in a climate where providers are facing growing demand for their services and significantworkforce challenges.

The report explores how community health care service providers currently define, measure, manage and improve the quality of care. It argues that a much stronger focus on quality in community health care is needed to meet the ambitions of policy-makers, so that the health system can effectively support people to remain well and independent, and can provide care for people closer to home.

The report makes a series of recommendations to local leaders and national bodies, calling on them to cultivate a consistent approach to understanding and measuring quality for the whole range of community service activities, in order to deliver better care and prevent avoidable harm. These include:

  • the Department of Health, Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC), Care Quality Commission  and other national bodies should work together to develop a clear road map for radically improving quality measurement and benchmarking in community health care services across both NHS and non-NHS providers
  • CCGs, Monitor and NHS England should develop better pricing and contracting models for outcomes-based commissioning
  • the Department of Health, Health Education England and other national and local training bodies shoulddevelop a robust workforce plan and strategy for community health care services
  • NHS England, NHS Choices and the Health and Social Care Information Centre to make quantitative metrics on the quality of community health care services available alongside the urgent development of the Community Information Data Set (CIDS)
  • local service leaders shouldcontinue todevelop strong provider-led initiatives for sector-wide indicators, to improve staff engagement and to share best practice in improving how quality is measured and monitored.

Catherine Foot, Assistant Director of Policy at The King’s Fund and the report’slead author, said:

‘Our research found many examples of community service providers doing excellent and innovative local work to gather feedback from patients and monitor and measure quality. But if policy-makers and service leaders are serious about their ambition to deliver more care closer to home, the community sector urgently needs the same level of both support and scrutiny that the hospital sector receives.’