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Monday 24th October 2016

The future of the annual health check

12th November 2008

Healthcare Commission chair Sir Ian Kennedy on the future of the annual health check.


When the Healthcare Commission was established, it was perceived as being synonymous with inspection and visiting trusts.

But visiting is resource intensive, costly and unlikely to provide patients and the public with the level of reassurance that they deserved.

The better way was to harness the huge range of data the NHS collects, put it together and analyse it with gaps identified and filled over time.

This was the genesis of our "information-led, risk-based" system of regulation, allowing the commission to be lean with judgements based on evidence with performance benchmarks developed.

With trust boards given the job of assessment, there were fears this form of self-regulation would be unreliable. However, in time, the system came to be respected.

If the commission were not being abolished, there are a number of developments I would like to have seen.

These include seeing standards focus on areas of safety, quality of care and the outcomes of care and the experiences of patients, all measured by outcomes; seeing the annual health check supplemented by an ability to assess performance throughout the year with "real-time surveillance"; and a shift towards enabling the public to be able to tell us what they "really want to know."

The annual health check often provided ministers with less welcome news, but I would have preferred to see it embraced more warmly by government.

The case for information-led, risk-based regulation has been strongly made. Let us hope the Care Quality Commission can take advantage of this understanding.


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