NHS Reforms Should Address Variations in Clinical Outcomes

As Britain’s Coalition Government continues to negotiate and revise its proposed National Health Service reforms, which are to be tabled through the sweeping Health and Social Care Bill, some commentators have begun calling for a new approach to increasing the quality of care from the NHS.

A large body of research suggests that there is a startlingly large variation in the quality of care and the clinical outcomes between the United Kingdom’s best performing clinical teams and the worst performing clinical teams.

Many believe that future NHS reforms should not be guided by international comparisons; rather, reforms should be targeted at reducing unwarranted variations in care quality through internal comparisons within the NHS.

Reforms towards a quality-driven NHS should focus on the elements that contribute to these unwarranted variations, including disparities in clinical knowledge, allocation of resources, organizational culture, and access to appropriate care.

Reducing variation should be one of the principal goals of NHS reform. Reforms should rely on objective measurements of clinical outcomes as well as subjective evaluations of services by patients and caregivers.

Using this data, as well as regular reports developed by patient societies and medical professionals, it will be possible to intervene in cases where support services are suboptimal, thereby reducing variations in care quality.