Quality Accounts

‘Quality Accounts’ is a very boring name given to what is actually quite an interesting thing!

A Quality Account is a document produced each year by a healthcare provider (e.g. a hospital).  The idea is that this document is a way of monitoring the quality of a health service.

The aim of having Quality Accounts is to:

  • ensure that services continue to focus on the quality of their service; and
  • to make services more accountable to the public.

Now, of course, we all know that most people tend to base their views about health services on their own experiences and that of their friends ‘n’ family, but the idea is that a Quality Account could also be a good source of information for the general public to measure the quality of an organisation.

Who has to submit a Quality Account?
Pretty much all healthcare service providers have to submit a Quality Account, although at the moment primary and community care sectors don’t have to do so until later in 2011.  Your big hospital trusts are perhaps the most interesting from a LINks point of view, and these have to produce one.

How do I find my local Quality Accounts?
For a process designed to enhance transparency, Quality Accounts are somewhat tricky to locate. They really need their own website. You can find Quality Accounts on the Quality Accounts page of the NHS Choices website, but just to confuse you, only acute trusts and independent sector providers put their Quality Accounts on this page at the mo, so for other services you need to find NHS trusts near your postcode via this page and then click on their page – there should be a link to the Quality Account on the right-hand-side of the page.

What does this have to do with LINks?
Anyway, the good thing about Quality Accounts is that the services have to present their draft Quality Account to their Local Involvement Network for comment – hooray!  They have to present this to the LINk by 30 April each year. You don’t have to provide a LINk comment, but if you do provide one, then the provider is legally obliged to include it (as long as it’s less than 1000 words, so no rambling).  In 2010, 60% of Quality Accounts had a comment from their LINk.  Have a look at the Portsmouth City PCT Quality Account for an example of a LINk comment.

Department of Health Draft Guide for LINks:
The DH have a Draft Guide to Quality Accounts for LINks which they have put together. They are asking for comments on this if you have any views on how it could be improved.

This BMA Briefing Note on Quality Accounts from December 2010 is also a handy guide.  There’s also more information in The Quality Accounts Toolkit and on the Department of Health web page on Quality Accounts.

What can LINks do with this data?
For a LINk, Quality Accounts are both a resource for useful data about your local healthcare providers, and a chance to ensure that patients and the public get to have their say.

Producing a LINk comment for a Quality Account is a great project for keen LINk people. A small task group could do this as a project, either on an ongoing basis or just as a short project at the beginning of the year, getting ready for April when the LINk will be presented with the chance to comment on the Quality Account.