The health secretary has asked the Care Quality Commission to include a hospital’s efficiency as one of the “key criteria” for rating the quality of its leadership.

Speaking exclusively to HSJ today, Jeremy Hunt said he did not want a situation where “we have the government and Monitor asking for transformation and efficiency, and the CQC inspection regime asking for a different set of priorities around safety and quality”.

Sir Mike Richards

Sir Mike Richards has agreed to include use of resources in the key CQC inspection criteria

It was, he added, “really important is that the whole system is aligned around what it is we are expecting of people running hospitals”. 

He continued: “The whole theme of my speech [to the NHS Confederation conference this morning] was that quality and efficiency are two sides of the same coin.

“So I’ve asked [CQC chief inspector of hospitals Sir] Mike Richards, and he has agreed that he will include use of resources as one of the key criteria that the CQC look at in their well led domain, when his round two inspection regime starts in April next year.”

Mr Hunt said Sir Mike would be aided in his work to develop a way of assessing trusts’ use of resources by information from Lord Carter’s ongoing review of NHS efficiency.

He added: “What it’ll mean basically is that hospitals who adopt best practice for procurement, for rostering, for efficient use of resources will see a dividend in their CQC ratings.”

Asked if he was concerned that changing the inspection regime in this way could dilute the CQC’s focus on quality, he replied: “Quite the opposite.”

He continued: “This CQC inspection regime – which is the single thing I’m probably most proud of in terms of the changes we’ve made over the last couple of years – will fail if we see quality and efficiency as two separate things.

“Mike is the first person to say it’s not acceptable for a hospital that gets put into special measures to say the problem’s about resources, because there are other hospitals with the same resources that are able to deliver high quality care.”