Ofsted-style ratings for local NHS services 'will improve patient care'
New Ofsted-style ratings for a range of NHS services will drive up the quality of patient care, the Health Secretary has said.
Jeremy Hunt said providing ratings for services such as cancer, dementia and diabetes "will be a really good thing" for patients.
Under the plans, clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), which manage local health budgets, will have their performance in key disease areas published by NHS England.
GPs will also no longer have to spend time rearranging hospital appointments for patients who may have missed them.
Ofsted-style ratings are already used by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) for NHS trusts but will now be brought in for other services from next summer.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Hunt said the ratings had dramatically improved patient care.
He said: "If you've got a relative who's got dementia, one of the things you'd like to know is how good are dementia services in your area.
"We will become the first country anywhere in the world which actually says - for any part of the country - how good are dementia services, how good are maternity services.
"What we found, when we introduced Ofsted ratings for hospitals, we saw dramatic improvements in the quality of care.
"Once you tell people how they are doing compared to their next-door neighbour, they sort problems out really quickly.
"I think it will be a really good thing for patients in the NHS."
Mr Hunt said the new ratings are being done in a "light touch" way, rather than through targets.
The plans also set out how GPs will be freed from spending time on re-referrals for outpatient appointments.
According to the Department of Health, 2.5% of GP time is taken up by re-referrals - the equivalent of seeing about six million patients per year.
A report by NHS Alliance has shown that up to 27% of GP appointments could potentially be avoided if there was better working between GPs and hospitals and improved use of technology.
Surgeries are also to be made paperless by 2018 and the use of fax machines between hospitals and surgeries is set to end. Officials said this will save valuable resources which can be given over to patient care.
But shadow health minister Justin Madders said patients are actually finding it harder to access the NHS.
"The Tories have pushed up waiting lists, plunged hospitals into financial crisis and left patients struggling to get GP appointments," he said.
"The uncomfortable truth for Jeremy Hunt is that his policies are failing patients, and failing the NHS."
Mr Hunt also spoke about the controversial junior doctor contract, saying it would stop hospitals making medics work five nights in a row, which "doctors find absolutely exhausting".
He said the legal maximum for any working week is 91 hours but, under the new contract, the Government would bring this figure down to 72 hours.
On Wednesday, Mr Hunt pledged that no junior doctor working less than 56 hours a week would have their pay cut under the new contract.
He said rules state that doctors must not work more than 56 hours a week on average over an eight-week period.