Health secretary Alan Johnson has announced a series of policies to help avoid more NHS services falling to the “appalling” standards exposed at Mid Staffordshire foundation trust.

Providers will have to publish the number of complaints they get and an annual statement on how they are involving patients and the public in improving services.

The government outlined the measures in response to reports by national emergency care director Sir George Alberti and national primary care director David Colin-Thomé about the state of these services at Mid Staffordshire. Both reports highlighted lessons for the rest of the NHS.

Mr Johnson said it was “clear that there was not enough co-operation and communication between the different management and regulatory bodies”.

There is now a duty for Monitor and the Care Quality Commission to co-operate, he said.

CQC chair Baroness Young told HSJ the regulator’s board had considered how it could identify failures early.

She welcomed government support for regular “clinical risk summits” at which officials from the regulators and strategic health authorities would meet to share information and identify risks in each region.

Baroness Young said the approach of the regulator was to discuss issues with all parties at an early stage.

She said: “Rather than go through any sort of ritual of writing to trusts and asking whether we are going to do a big scale review, the answer is to go in early and talk.”

“If you have a good trust that has been doing well you may rely to some extent, for a period, on self declaration, but with others you might well want to be more frequently down there on the ground.”

Baroness Young said high profile reports were “a bit of a blunt instrument” as a method of learning lessons.

“I would like to think the system can become much more responsible than to need to be bludgeoned into change.”

Another government commitment was to hold a summit to ensure that care standards were not being sacrificed in order to meet the accident and emergency four hour waiting target, as it was at Mid Staffordshire.

College of Emergency Medicine president John Heyworth said it would call for a “greater degree of flexibility” in the target, for example a reduction from the requirement to see 98 per cent of patients within the time, to 95 per cent.

What will change?

  • Boards will be told to be open and transparent, including holding board meetings in public
  • A summit will be held on the four hour accident and emergency waiting target
  • The staff survey question on care at their own trusts will be reintroduced
  • CQC and NHS medical directors will have a role in the foundation bidding process
  • Hospital standardised mortality ratios are to be published more widely
  • Commissioners will validate quality accounts
  • The national quality board is to review system issues by the end of the year
  • The CQC is to review Mid Staffordshire in six months
  • The government will review the balance between co-operation and competition rules in summer
  • More support for local involvement networks
  • Trusts will have a duty to publish a patient and public involvement statement