Dr Foster has backtracked on plans to publish new indictors on cancer and obstetrics with this year’s Hospital Guide and promised it will listen to trusts more in future.

The decision by the healthcare information company not to include the new indicators was taken after trusts complained about a lack of opportunity to use new measures and offer feedback on them before they were made available to the press and the public.

The Hospital Guide, which includes a details of performance against a range of quality and safety measures as well as a league table based on mortality rates, has proved controversial since it was first published in 2000 and has been criticised for being too simplistic a measure of trust performance.

In a letter sent to all NHS trusts this week Dr Foster chief executive Tim Baker said new indicators would not now be released “until our customers have had the opportunity to work with us to define and understand them”. 

He set out a “customer promise” that stated while the company remains committed to transparency it will listen and respond to feedback from trusts and the market.

Mr Baker wrote: “This is clearly an important step for Dr Foster and one that we hope will lead to higher levels of engagement and collaboration with the NHS that means we can continue to act as a real catalyst for change and improvement.”

The new indicators measure factors such as rates of elective caesarean sections, percentage of mothers staying more than two nights following a normal or instrumental delivery and readmission rates following surgery for breast, lung and colorectal cancer.

Instead this year’s Hospital Guide will focus on mortality across specific diagnosis and care groups, such as fractured neck of femur and older people, and drivers of in-hospital mortality. It will also review staffing levels with a particular focus on weekends.

The letter also sets out Dr Foster’s plans to use the new summary hospital level mortality indicator (SHMI) which is being produced by the NHS Information Centre to replace the hospital standardised mortality ratios.

Mr Baker said the SHMI would be “a valuable new indicator in understanding hospital mortality” and committed to providing bespoke SHMI reports for customer trusts within four weeks of the methodology being published.

A consultation on the methodology concludes on Monday. It is due to be finalised and published by the end of the month.

Dr Foster Customer Promise:

  • We are committed to transparency. We believe publication of performance improves outcomes but will not publish new indicators to the press or wider market until NHS trusts have had the opportunity to collaborate with us in their development
  • We are listening and responding to our customers and the market’s feedback
  • We will continue to work in collaboration with the NHS and healthcare professionals worldwide to develop and make available innovative and informative indicators that improve the quality and efficiency of healthcare