The National Health Service (Quality Accounts) Regulations 2010 (regulations) come into force on 1 April 2010. As mentioned in previous updates, Quality Accounts are reports to the public on the quality of services of a healthcare provider and their introduction derives from the Health Act 2009. The publishing of Quality Accounts is seen as a way of increasing public participation in the demand for improved health services.

A certain amount of flexibility has been built into the regulations for the first year of their existence. For example, although all acute trusts have to publish Quality Accounts by 30 June of this year, community health and primary care providers are currently exempted. There are, however, ongoing consultations in this area and it is expected Quality Accounts will be introduced next year for these two sets of providers. Therefore other entities (eg organisations classed as “small providers”) which are currently exempt may find themselves subject to the regulations in future.

The Quality Accounts themselves will comprise four parts:

  • A statement made by the provider as to the overall quality of the services provided (or carried out by a third party on the provider’s behalf) for the relevant period. This statement must be signed off by an individual holding a position of seniority (as listed in the regulations) within the provider.
  • Information relevant to the services provided. A list of such required information is set out in the schedule to the regulations.
  • Information to be determined locally by the provider consulting with stakeholders.
  • A statement from the Commissioning PCT or SHA, and (if received) from the Local Involvement Networks (LINks) and Overview and Scrutiny Committees (OSCs) as to whether the draft Quality Accounts accurately reflect the quality of services provided.

What happens next year will depend in part upon a review of Quality Accounts submitted this year and the regulations may be amended in light of this. The National Quality Board in its first annual report (released 8 February 2010) states that it intends for Quality Accounts to “become as reliable and robust as financial accounts” and intends to work towards ensuring that the whole process is strengthened towards achieving that aim.

The National Health Service (Quality Accounts) Regulations 2010 can be accessed here and the Quality Accounts toolkit can be accessed here.