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NHS data accuracy is getting better, but there is still room for improvement

3rd September 2012
The Audit Commission has found that the quality of data being used by the health service’s Payment by Results (PbR) system has improved since it reviewed all NHS acute trusts last year.

It has also noted a gradual improvement in clinical coding overall since PbR began.

Payment by Results is the tariff that aims for fair hospital funding. But it relies on accurate data. Published today is Right data, right payment - Annual report on the Payment by Results data assurance programme 2011/12 For the past five years this Audit Commission programme has provided assurance to the NHS on the quality of the data underpinning PbR payments, and reported annually on progress.

Across all NHS trusts, performance on clinical coding has improved since the PbR assurance framework started, with average error rates dropping each year and a narrower range of error.

But individual trust performance varies each year. Many trusts struggle consistently to achieve good levels of accuracy, and some have consistently performed poorly.

The Audit Commission’s MD of Health, Andy McKeon, says: ‘Payment by Results can only ever be as good as the data that underpins it. We have found the overall picture to be one of gradually improving quality and accuracy.

‘But health service providers can still do more to improve data quality. For example, it was disappointing that only a half of trusts had made good progress in implementing previous audit recommendations. ’

Work carried out in 2011/12 by the Commission’s PbR assurance programme included auditing 33,373 episodes of care, following up previous audit recommendations at individual trusts to see how well they were being delivered; and reviewing primary care trusts’ (PCTs) arrangements to secure quality data.

Andy McKeon adds: ‘Commissioners need to be more robust in seeking assurances on the quality of the data and the steps being taken to improve it. Few PCTs performed well in all aspects of ensuring they used quality data for contracting and payment purposes.

‘This report contains a checklist we have developed to help, and the Audit Commission's award-winning National Benchmarker can also be used to check for data discrepancies.’

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