Over the last three months the Government has collected a whopping 405,000 responses to a single question: “How likely are you to recommend our ward/A&E department to friends and family if they needed similar care or treatment?” Responses are collected on a six-point scale from ‘extremely likely’ to ‘extremely unlikely’. This question is currently posed to all A&E and inpatient NHS users, but the plan is to expand it across the NHS. The data is then provided to hospitals to allow management teams to assess their performance and is displayed in a simplified form on the NHS choices website, allowing individual users to compare the performance of a particular department (Urology, for example) across the nearest few hospitals. So will it work? The evidence is beginning to mount up that ‘naming and shaming’ poorly performing hospitals and schools does increase performance (see here for a summary of two natural experiments). We also know from rigorous econometric studies that the 2006 ‘choose and book’ reforms, which extended choice in hospitals, lead to patients becoming more responsive to information on hospital quality. Publishing information on hospital performance seems a worthwhile aim then. But, as we have learnt from the long and troubled […]

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