Patients urged to help inspectors
The new Chief Inspector of Hospitals has called for hundreds of NHS patients to join inspection teams as part of plans to radically change the way hospitals in England are assessed.
Professor Sir Mike Richards said he wanted to build up a "small army" of inspectors.
The new beefed-up review teams, which will be made up of patients, doctors, nurses and other professionals, will give all hospitals in England school-style ratings. Each of the 161 acute hospital trusts will be rated as "outstanding", "good", "requires improvement" or "inadequate", he said.
If they are deemed to be inadequate they could be put into "special measures" - as seen earlier this week with 11 hospital trusts reviewed for having higher mortality rates. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced that he would be sending hit squads of experts into the trusts to improve patient care.
In his first press conference after taking the job, Sir Mike pledged the review teams will be "robust, fair and transparent". He called for patients, carers and clinicians to come forward to help the health care regulator the Care Quality Commission (CQC) with the inspection process.
Sir Mike said: "We will have relatively large multi-professional teams of experts - those will include doctors, nurses, allied health professionals, managers, but importantly they will also include patients and carers who we consider to be experts by experience.
"I want to start building a small army of inspectors. These inspectors need to come from different walks of life, some of them will be practising clinicians who will come and do two or three inspections a year, some others will be retired clinicians but importantly we are also seeking patients and carers and we will provide training.
"We will assess whether services are safe, effective, caring, responsive and well led."
He said that the bigger inspection teams would spend longer examining the hospitals with a mixture of announced and unannounced inspections.
"We are at the start of a journey," he added. "We won't get everything right from the outset but we will be open. We will set out what we see - good or bad - and ultimately I believe this combination of rigorous inspection combined with the action that others will take, will lead us to not only knowing that we've got high quality care, but being able to move those who are not up to delivering high quality care."