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Comparative Performance Data

Volume 559: debated on Tuesday 26 February 2013

1. What assessment he has made of the benefits of comparative performance data in raising standards in the NHS. (144336)

Comparative performance data are essential to raise standards in the NHS. I have therefore commissioned a review from the Nuffield Trust to consider whether aggregate ratings of provider performance should be used in health and social care, and if so, how best this should be done.

My right hon. Friend will be aware that NHS North West London has made considerable use of comparative performance data to justify closing four A and E departments in one concentrated part of its area. Charing Cross, Ealing, Hammersmith and Central Middlesex are the four A and E departments closest to my constituents, who will be wondering how their closure will raise standards of health care provision locally. Does my right hon. Friend appreciate that there will be strong support among my constituents for any calls to review the decision and the use of comparative performance data?

I first congratulate my hon. Friend on campaigning extremely hard on behalf of the views and concerns of her constituents throughout the process of the decision that was finally made by NHS North West London last Tuesday. Comparative performance data have a very important role to play, particularly with regard to excess mortality of people who use A and E on weekends. I am, however, aware of my hon. Friend’s concerns and will consider them carefully if, as is likely, the decision is reviewed by Ealing council.

I thank the Secretary of State for his previous answer. Comparative data are essential in compiling an evidence base on which to plan effective health interventions. Will he use the radiotherapy data sets that his Department publishes as a basis to inform planned investments in advanced radiotherapy systems, particularly in regions like mine which lack such equipment?

I know that the hon. Gentleman asks a lot of questions about radiotherapy. We use a strict evidence base before we make any investments. We also want to embrace innovation, but our absolute priority is to save as many lives as possible from cancer. He will know that we are in the lower half of the European league tables when it comes to cancer survival rates, and that is something that we are determined to put right.

On collecting performance data, has the Secretary of State seen the NHS Confederation publication “Information overload: tackling bureaucracy in the NHS”, which points to a great deal of duplication in information? What is his reaction to it?

There is far too much bureaucracy in the NHS, which is why I have asked the chief executive of the NHS Confederation to report to me on how we could reduce the bureaucratic burden on hospitals by a third. If there is a lesson from the Francis report on the tragedy at Mid Staffs, it is that we need to free up the time of people on the front line to care, which is what they went into the NHS to do.

The hon. Member for Ealing Central and Acton (Angie Bray) asked a key question. Under the secondary legislation being introduced by the Secretary of State under section 75 of the Health and Social Care Act 2012, local commissioning groups will be forced to allow private providers into the NHS. These private providers will be exempt from the Freedom of Information Act, which will make it harder for patients to compare data between providers. It cannot benefit NHS patients for core clinical services to be given to private providers that do not have to conform to the same standards of transparency as those in the NHS. Will the Secretary of State see reason, ensure a level playing field for the NHS and withdraw the section 75 regulations without delay?

Who exactly are the section-75 bogeymen that the hon. Gentleman hates: Whizz-Kidz who are supplying services to disabled children in Tower Hamlets, or Mind, which is supplying psychological therapy to people in Middlesbrough? The reality is that those regulations are completely consistent with the procurement guidelines that his Government sent to primary care trusts. He needs to stop trying to pretend that we are doing something different from what his Government were doing when in fact we are doing exactly the same.