The Department of Health today announced it intends to extend the Care Quality Commission's (CQC) current rating programme to cover independent healthcare providers, including abortion clinics, in a bid to provide greater transparency for patients.

The Department of Health confirmed in September 2017 that it intended to broaden the CQC's powers to rate independent healthcare providers. Today's announcement confirmed the extent of that expansion, enabling the CQC to give a rating to all healthcare organisations in England that offer regulated care, and requiring each to display its rating in a public space, such as its website or premises.

The CQC's current rating system resembles Ofsted inspection reports: independent hospitals, GP surgeries and social care services are currently given a rating of Outstanding, Good, Requires Improvement or Inadequate, based on five key questions. Healthcare organisations such as abortion clinics, online GP providers, cosmetic surgery providers and substance misuse clinics will now also be subject to rating by the CQC, although the CQC is likely to launch a public consultation in 2018 to establish whether these organisations will be rated using the existing system or by different measures.

Jeremy Hunt, Health Secretary, said: "These changes are a world first for patient safety, modernising our tough Ofsted-style inspection scheme so we keep pace with the changing landscape of healthcare, as well as helping tech savvy patients to make informed decisions about their care."

The ratings system should afford better transparency to patients and allow healthcare providers who have not previously been rated by the CQC to identify areas for improvement.

Whether it can deliver those anticipated benefits will depend upon the measures used and the practical application of them. Healthcare providers will want to be considering their performance now, in order to avoid adverse reputational consequences.

For the insurers of healthcare providers the ratings system will give an initial broad brush impression of the insured's performance. It will not be a substitute for detailed investigation of risk.