PERFORMANCE: A system for ranking NHS trusts by patient satisfaction will be introduced across a quarter of England’s hospitals in 2012-13, with part of their funding dependant on league table performance.

The strategic health authority cluster NHS Midlands and East will require all acute providers in its region to collect “real time” data on how likely their patients would be to recommend their hospitals to friends or family.

The standardised survey technique is borrowed from private sector firms like the Hilton hotel chain, which use it to track customer satisfaction across different branches.

The SHA cluster plans to collect hospital data on a monthly basis, and to publish a league table based on their responses. It will also make payments to trusts under the Commissioning for Quality and Innovation (CQUIN) scheme if they can keep their scores in the top 25 per cent during 2012-13, or show a 10 point improvement in the course of the year.

NHS Midlands and East policy and strategy director Stephen Dunn said the scheme was “going to make clear who’s delivering excellent patient care, and those who need to improve”.

“For the first time we will be able to really prioritise patient experience, and elevate the discussions around it to the same level as the 18 week [referral-to-treatment target], the four-hour accident and emergency [waiting target], and the targets around healthcare-acquired infections,” he told HSJ. “It will have the same focus as those other key indicators of service standards.”

He added: “The fact that we’re going to ask the question of a quarter of hospitals in the country means people will be able to benchmark where there is really excellent patient care and customer service, and get the best to share their practice with those who need to improve.”

Mr Dunn said he believed there would be interest from the Department of Health in extending the scheme nationally if the cluster could show that it worked. “I think there would be a lot of national interest in whether we can set up a real-time monitoring framework for this,” he said.

Prime minister David Cameron backed a “friends and family” test in his January speech on improving nursing, in the wake of a series of reports about failures to ensure dignity and essential care for elderly patients.

The system adopted by NHS Midlands and East gives organisations what is known in the private sector as a “net promoter score”. The proportion of respondents who are very likely not to recommend a provider, or “detractors”, is subtracted from the proportion of “promoters”, who would recommend it, to give a score ranging from 100 (all positive) to -100 (all negative).

The cluster will expect hospitals to collect the data broken down by ward and clinical specialty.