Benchmarking is key to the success of Royal West Sussex trust, which has won the CHKS most consistent hospital award for its performance over the past three years. It has been in the CHKS annual list of the top 40 performing hospitals for the past six years.

Benchmarking is key to the success of Royal West Sussex trust, which has won the CHKS most consistent hospital award for its performance over the past three years. It has been in the CHKS annual list of the top 40 performing hospitals for the past six years.

The trust believes in learning by independent assessment against other top-performing hospitals.

Paul Carter, consultant urological surgeon and divisional director, says: 'As a former clinical director, I used benchmarking information to focus on service improvements such as increasing our day-case rate. Now, as a divisional director, I marry that discipline with the financial bottom line.'

Two years ago, the trust's day-case rate was 60 per cent. This has increased to 73 per cent by benchmarking and auditing procedures. The trust used national information from organisations such as the British Association of Day Surgery, CHKS, NHS Elect and the Modernisation Agency.

An audit of patients was carried out to see why they were staying in longer and administrative staff were educated about which procedures did not need to be booked overnight.

A new NHS treatment centre gives extra day-case capacity. Day-case patients are admitted only via the centre and follow a clear pathway, giving more flexibility.

Nurse-led discharge has sped this step up and reduced delays for patients.

Clinical teams have equal access and understanding of clinical and financial data, enabling them to contribute to improving efficiency.

The trust's focus is a turnaround plan to address its financial problems. With an annual turnover of more than£110m, the in-year challenge for 2006-07 is a£12m deficit.

The plan has the support of the Department of Health and South East Coast strategic health authority. It includes reorganising and restructuring the trust, and reducing bank and agency spend. The trust is consulting on a new structure with fewer management and supervisory posts.

The turnaround process has enabled the trust to look again at productivity across outpatients, wards and theatres, using external benchmarking information.