A year and a half after former health minister Lord Darzi’s next stage review called for all NHS providers to publish quality accounts, there is still no real consensus on what they should look like.

Given the costs involved in preparing and assuring the accounts, the whole process may feel like an unwelcome burden.

Part of the difficulty is that there is no agreement on who should determine the documents’ contents and what those should be - while in most cases the public does not yet know of the quality accounts’ existence. This combination of factors can make it unclear how much they will contribute.

In addition, views vary on how the contents should be shaped by patients, clinicians and board members and on how comparable the accounts should be from one organisation to another.

There is even disagreement over whether the accounts should be produced with passion or compulsion as the driving force.

But these uncertainties are not an excuse to be tentative. It may take years to standardise quality accounts, just as it did for financial accounts, but in the meantime trusts must harness clinicians’ competitiveness, get board members to hold those clinicians to account, and marry both with a bold means to boost engagement with patients and the public.

As productivity savings continue apace, the need to accurately measure and report on quality is more, not less, important.

NHS quality accounts must live up to the name