A minority of NHS boards have prioritised targets, finance and governance over other aspects of service quality, the Department of Health has admitted.

Responding last week to the Commons health committee’s report on patient safety, published in July, the government acknowledged “a minority of boards, in their focus on national priorities, may have overlooked some aspects of quality which required local attention”.

But it rejected the committee’s suggestion that NHS boards in general have neglected their duty to “promote tangible improvements in services”.

“There have been major improvements in many aspects of clinical quality, which are highly relevant to the patient safety agenda, for instance in vastly improved access to diagnosis and lifesaving treatment,” said the report. It added the requirement for trusts and foundation trusts to publish quality accounts from next year will ensure boards focus on quality.

HSJ’s conference on Achieving High Quality Outpatient Services is on 10 November. See details at www.hsj-outpatients.com