The government has told the Care Quality Commission to scrap its annual review of health service organisations immediately, HSJ has learned.

It means trusts - previously labelled from excellent to weak - will no longer be given a single tag describing their care quality.

Doing this at this time is really unhelpful. It leaves NHS organisations confused about the CQC’s role, so they won’t respond to it

The regulator had planned to publish results of an updated version of the annual health check, covering 2009-10 performance, in the autumn. It will now just issue trusts’ scores on a range of performance measures for 2009-10, the Department of Health has confirmed to HSJ.

A spokesman said it was part of the move from process measures to outcomes.

He said: “The previous system is no longer appropriate and needs to be revised.”

The annual ratings were accused of being out of date and inaccurate last year after poor care was uncovered at trusts that had previously scored well.

Manchester University professor of health policy and management Kieran Walshe told HSJ uncertainty and changes to the CQC’s role made it harder for the regulator to do its job.

He said: “Doing this at this time is really unhelpful. It leaves NHS organisations confused about the CQC’s role, so they won’t respond to it.”

CQC chief Cynthia Bower said in a statement: “Under [the] registration [regime], we are monitoring standards around the clock and publishing information about trusts regularly, not just once a year.

“The periodic review was set to score trusts only on performance against government targets and priorities. However, a new government brings new priorities so it is right that we work with the DH to make sure our work reflects this.

“We appreciate a lot of work has already gone into the periodic review this year. This data is still a very valuable source of information. We will continue to use it in our quality and risk profiles and provide trusts with information they can use to monitor their performance.”