The government will identify a small number of quality measures that will be used to judge a wide range of NHS activities, from commissioning to hospital care.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said in a speech last week that a consultation would be launched to pick the indicators and confirmed those he personally favours.

They include mortality for conditions amenable to healthcare, one year and five year cancer survival rates, premature mortality from stroke, heart disease and lung disease, patient reported outcomes for patients with long term conditions, patient satisfaction and experiences, and adverse events, as reported by HSJ in May.

In a speech to the British Medical Association Mr Lansley said the indicators would be “proper measures of quality which prioritise what matters to patients - not boxes ticked and processes followed - but their actual health outcomes”. The measures would be used to assess the performance of both GP commissioners and hospitals, through the inspection regime.

Where relevant, the measures will also be linked to quality standards, as set by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. The first four of those have been confirmed for stroke and dementia care and prevention of venous thromboembolism.

Mr Lansley said the standards would be “a central part of commissioning” and used in the payment system and in quality inspection.

This would give the NHS “consistent measures of quality, and incentives for quality, and we do away with conflicts or distorting targets and measures”.

The health secretary has also announced that quality accounts - which all acute and mental health trusts published for the first time last month - will in future need to be externally audited. The regulator Monitor told foundation trusts to trial this for their 2009-10 accounts, but non-foundation trusts’ accounts are only subject to basic checks by their primary care trust.

Mr Lansley said quality accounts’ content would in future be more closely linked to the outcome measures and the quality standards under development.

He said: “For the future, quality accounts will evolve to reflect the government’s aim of developing a new culture of leadership and responsibility across the NHS.”