A broad survey of data from independent healthcare providers across the UK has revealed the sector's staffing levels, bed spaces and hospital-acquired infection rates. Sally Taber examines the results

The Independent Healthcare Advisory Services was set up to help independent healthcare providers develop and share their knowledge and experiences and to provide a reliable and robust source of information about the independent sector. The credentials documents for England, Scotland and Wales are part of this.

To produce the credentials document, the Independent Healthcare Advisory Services collected data covering April 2006 to March 2007 from its members in England, Scotland and Wales. Acute and mental health services were surveyed in Scotland and Wales, while only acute services were surveyed in England. In Scotland, eight acute hospitals and five mental health hospitals took part, along with five acute hospitals and 10 mental health hospitals in Wales. In England, 168 hospitals, 11 independent treatment centres and 17 day case only clinics provided data.

Beds, patients and staff

The analysis of the data showed that England has 8,032 acute beds, Scotland has 281 acute beds and 277 mental health beds, and Wales has 202 acute beds and 287 mental health beds.

The numbers of patients treated in acute hospitals by the replying organisations in each of the countries were: 631,596 in England, 28,530 in Scotland, and 16,823 in Wales. In addition, the acute outpatient attendances recorded were 2,531,131 for England, 137,539 for Scotland, and 134,264 for Wales. The mental health sector in Scotland looked after 459 inpatients and in Wales it was 660 inpatients.

The audit showed that the facilities surveyed employ a total of 7,352 registered nurses and 2,796 allied health professionals.

There was a very low rate of infection in all the hospitals and the data showed that in England the incidents of MRSA were 0.08 per 10,000 bed days and for C difficile 0.68 per 10,000 bed days. In Scotland, the incidents were 0.6 per 10,000 bed days for MRSA and there was only one case of C difficile, while in Wales there were no incidents of MRSA reported and again only one case of C difficile.

Quality benchmarking

What is next for the direction of performance and quality measures? Jane Cameron for IHAS and Dr JJ de Gorter for NHS Partners Network are continuing to quality benchmark the agenda. Tenders from third parties for collecting data from independent sector providers will be considered in early May and recommendations made to IHAS and NHSPN boards, including projected costs.

The data collected will include patient level data and must differentiate between contractual and clinical indicators. IHAS and NHSPN have been working with the Joint Agency Working Group to produce a common independent sector data set. Further work will be required to improve definitions for comparability and data sets and the Healthcare Commission has already offered to help develop this. Providers will be contacted with an update following the mid-May meeting.

For more information, visit www.independenthealthcare.org.uk