Published: 18/08/2005, Volume II5, No. 5969 Page 8

The first three topics for improvement reviews to feed into the new NHS ratings will focus on children in hospital, drug users and smokers, the Healthcare Commission announced this week.

The areas have been pinpointed because of the high impact the commission hopes they will have on improving the nation's health.

Assessments will be carried out through nationally available data as well as additional information collected from trusts. Only 10 per cent of organisations with the weakest assessments will be visited by the commission and be required to develop action plans.

The reviews, which will feed into next year's ratings, will assess whether hospitals are providing services and trained staff specifically for children in areas like accident and emergency, on wards and in surgery.

The assessments will also focus on whether primary care trusts are delivering good services to help people stop smoking, and if local drug action teams are working effectively to stabilise drug users.

Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker said the reviews would take an in-depth look at areas of national priority in a 'targeted and proportionate' way.

She added: 'Feedback from patients and the public has shown children's health, public health and issues related to mental health are all areas that need attention.'