The NHS will be compared with its international peers in annual reports by the soon to be created national quality board.
The Department of Health today announced eight members of the body. Another eight lay and expert representatives are being appointed.
The board was promised in health minister Lord Darzi's next stage review in the summer.
NHS medical director Sir Bruce Keogh told HSJ the board's most "tangible" work would be to publish an annual report on quality, specifically comparing the English health service with other countries.
"It will push up the aspirations of the NHS," he said. "I would like the report to give encouragement where we are doing well, and let the public and people who work in the service know where we are not doing as well as other places. That will provide us with clear evidence on where we need to focus."
The results of the comparison could help decide which measures will have to be reported at a national level.
The new organisation is intended to ensure the shift to a focus on quality of care is translated into practice. It would also make sure work on quality was co-ordinated, Sir Bruce said. It is expected to meet for the first time in the spring.
Change of approach
"The raison d'être for the quality board is to bring some alignment to the system around quality.
"The Darzi document requires a behavioural and philosophical change in the way we approach our day to day business."
The board will "help sign off and determine" agreed quality indicators following the consultation that began last month on a list of about 400 initial measures.
Sir Bruce said the role of the board would develop over time. "We have got to get it right for the service and for the patients and therefore I think we have got to take the functions of the board slowly and see how it evolves."
He also assured trusts that the first quality accounts, to be published at the end of 2009-10, were "very unlikely" to require the reporting of anything not already being measured except, potentially, patient reported outcome measures data.
That will be collected from April next year as set out in the 2008-09 operating framework.
The Appointments Commission has begun recruiting four expert and four lay representatives to the board.
Department of Health
David Nicholson (chair), NHS chief executive
Sir Bruce Keogh, NHS medical director
Dame Christine Beasley, chief nursing officer
Sir Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer
David Behan, director general for social care, local government and care partnerships
Closely linked bodies
Baroness Young, Care Quality Commission chair
Bill Moyes, Monitor executive chair
Mike Rawlins, National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence chair
Four expert and four lay representatives - who could be carers, frontline staff and academics.