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Department of Health pledges will get ‘good’ or ‘inadequate’ ratings as MPs draft in independent experts

The new system will rate the Government's progress on a scale from "outstanding" to "inadequate" (PA)

3 min read

Ministers’ key health promises will be independently evaluated and handed ratings under a new scheme launched by a cross-party group of MPs.

The Health and Social Care Committee is drafting in Professor Dame Jane, president of the Medical Protection Society and former president of the Royal College of Physicians to chair an independent panel which will track progress on major policy pledges.

The move, which comes amid ongoing inquiries into the coronavirus pandemic, will see MPs and the panel decide which areas of health policy to focus on, before the panel weighs up the evidence on how ministers are progressing and publishes their findings.

Their analysis will include a rating of either 'outstanding', 'good', 'requires improvement' or 'inadequate' for its progress—the same scale used by the Care Quality Commission to rate providers.

Jeremy Hunt, chair of the committee, said he hoped the initiative would “focus attention on areas such as cancer, mental health and patient safety where a number of vital commitments have been made”.

Meanwhile, Professor Dame Jane Dacre, who has been appointed as chair of the panel, told PoliticsHome she wanted the new system to help “improve patient care”.

“There's often a lot of published feedback on government pledges that have been made, but then the world moves on and sometimes those pledges are not achieved," Professor Dacre said.

“So some objective and impartial feedback to the government about what's been achieved and what hasn't been achieved is likely to help them to achieve what they set out to do and to support patients that way.”

Professor Dacre will be joined by two further medical experts on the panel.

The remaining six members will be recruited provisionally for each report based on their expertise in that subject, and will include clinicians, policy experts and those who have used the relevant health or care service. 

When asked about the impartiality of the panel, Professor Dacre added: “I regard myself as impartial, and we wouldn't select to the panel people that have a particular political axe to grind. 

“I think health care, because it's very expensive, often becomes very political.

"But, at the end of the day, there are patients who need to be served and who need to be cared for and who need to be kept safe.”

Evidence gathering for the panel’s first evaluation, focusing on maternity services, is set to begin in the autumn, with the report likely to be published in early 2021.

And Professor Dacre said that if the model is successful, “there's no reason why it shouldn't be rolled out to other areas and other select committees”.

She continued: “Let's try it out first. We mustn't run before we can walk.

"This is a pilot, we're going to try it out in one area to start with and that is what I've been tasked to do in the first instance. I'm sure that the process that we use will be improved and honed."

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