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Hospital accreditation

All National Health Service (NHS) hospitals and private healthcare providers must register with the Care Quality Commission, the body that is responsible for UK hospital accreditation and standards. This is compulsory.

It is the equivalent of the Joint Commission which accredits hospitals and clinics in the USA and internationally. In the UK, there are no JCI accredited hospitals. Why not? Because the standards set by the UK's Care Quality Commission either match or exceed those set by the US  domestic and international accrediatation bodies.

Many private hospitals also choose to apply for voluntary accreditation by various bodies as further evidence of the quality of care on offer.

The Care Quality Commission

The system of registration of UK healthcare providers in the UK has recently been updated. All healthcare providers, including NHS Trusts and private healthcare providers must now register with the Care Quality Commission, which became fully operational in April 2009. This organisation took over and combined the function of the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission. The CQC is now responsible for monitoring the Mental Health Act (1983) and for registering and inspecting all NHS and private hospitals, clinics and care homes.

The Annual Health Check

The Care Quality Commission has taken over the annual health checks that used to be carried out by the Healthcare Commission. It now reviews the standards of the NHS Trust hospitals and private hospitals in the UK, looking at the quality of clinical care available, safety, cleanliness and the way the hospital treats patients.

  • The Annual Health Check for each NHS and private hospital is listed on the Care Quality Commission website, where its performance is rated as weak, fair, good or excellent.
  • Where weakness is identified, the hospital or other healthcare provider must then set out what improvements will be made and how they will be put into action.

As an example, the Christie Hospital in Manchester received an excellent rating across the board in its last review in 2009. In 2010, the Christie announced a joint venture with HCA International to develop a new private patient cancer centre that will offer the latest cancer treatments, diagnostics and surgery to private patients from the UK and abroad from 2013.

Quality Healthcare Advice Trent (QHA Trent)

Quality Healthcare Advice Trent, an independent company based near Sheffield in the north of England, was established to take over the function of the Trent Accreditation Scheme (TAS). The TAS was recently closed by the UK government. QHA Trent continues its work to survey and assess hospitals throughout the UK and elsewhere in the world. Its international accreditation scheme is regarded as equivalent to the Joint Commission International Accreditation from the US-based Joint Commission. Both the JCI and QHA Trent are given their powers of accreditation from the same body – the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua). As hospitals in the UK are accredited by TAS/QHA Trent, they do not need JCI accreditation.

Voluntary Accreditation

NHS hospitals and private hospitals can be awarded voluntary accreditation:

CHKS accreditation: The CHKS Healthcare Accreditation and Quality Unit has been actively assessing and monitoring private healthcare in the UK since 2008. It developed from the Kings’ Fund Organisational Audit, which was originally formed in 1989, and the Health Quality Service Accreditation Scheme, which ran between 1998 and 2008.

Quality management certification: CHKS is given the power to award the ISO 9001:2008 certification by the UK Accreditation Service (ACAS). ISO accreditation is awarded by a collaborating network of institutes responsible for national standards in 162 countries, coordinated from Swiss headquarters in Geneva. The ISO 9001:2008 is an internationally recognised quality management standard that can be awarded to any type of organisation; in healthcare organisations they help to promote good management, which enhances patient care and safety.

The Clinical Cardiovascular Management Network awards the status of Centre of Excellence to key units in the UK and elsewhere in the world. This accreditation is, for example, currently held by The Harley Street Clinic in London.

Cancer service accreditation: services in NHS and private hospitals can be accredited by Macmillan Cancer Support, Breakthrough Breast Cancer and BUPA. BUPA assesses hospitals that offer cancer treatment on an individual basis and measures their performance against strict standards. These are based on guidelines and recommendations for gold standard care made by professional cancer organisations in the UK. BUPA specifically approves units that offer specialised screening and treatment for breast cancer, bowel cancer and gynaecological cancers. BUPA approval can also be given to units that provide cataract treatment and outpatient services for physiotherapy and MRI imaging.

Hospitality Assured Standards accredits UK hospitals with standards in service and business excellence, encouraging a healthcare provider to view its service from a patient perspective.

Centres and clinics offering plastic and cosmetic surgery can also apply for accreditation from the International Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery (ISAPS) and the European Society of Hair Restoration Surgery (ESHRS).