All acute providers will be given a rating by the Care Quality Commission before the end of 2015, under plans put out for consultation this week.

The documents set out detailed plans for the introduction of the regulator’s new inspection and ratings regime, first revealed by HSJ in March.

It also seeks to treat information from whistleblowers and social media equally to performance data.

Unlike previous systems, such as the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check, it proposes ratings will only be issued following an inspection. The frequency of inspections will be determined by the level of concern about at organisation. Hospitals rated “outstanding” could go up to five years without a visit.

Trusts will be given a rating for each of the CQC’s five new domains – safety, effectiveness, caring, responsive to people’s needs and well led - at organisational, hospital and service level. This would mean trusts would have five ratings at each of these levels.

The document said the CQC would welcome views on whether this would be “useful or overly complex”.

All acute providers will be rated by the end of 2015. Ratings for mental health trusts will be introduced during 2014 and community and ambulance trusts during 2015-16.

Information which could trigger a review by the CQC will include performance against access targets and mortality rates as well as comments on social media and staff survey results.

CQC head of communications Chris Day told HSJ the aim was to give equal weight to soft intelligence as to hard data, which hadn’t happened in the past.

“Quantative information is usually historic whereas qualitative information may help us get ahead of the game,” he added.

The CQC is also seeking views on what a set of “fundamental standards”, breaches of which could result in immediate prosecution. This approach was recommended in the report of the Francis public inquiry into Mid Staffordshire Foundation Trust.

DAC Beachcroft healthcare regulatory and public law partner Ian Cooper told HSJ: “I think this will be welcomed by most providers, certainly those who have been on the receiving end of regulatory action in the past and haven’t felt it was fair or proportionate.

“The key question for the CQC is probably one of resources.”

The CQC’s £179m budget for 2013-14 is an increase of about 16 per cent on the previous year. Of this, £19m is additional government funding while £7m has come from providers’ fees. The regulator’s business plan for this year says most of the costs associated with the change in strategy are non-recurring.