Quality of independent hospitals rises

A record number of independent hospitals are rated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.

New research by the Independent Healthcare Providers Network (IHPN) shows better results than ever before, despite the challenges posed by the Covid pandemic and the subsequent period of health system recovery.

IHPN’s national review of quality and safety data across the sector evaluated a broad range of CQC quality and safety in key areas.

It found 92% of acute independent, non-specialist hospitals delivering a wide range of services to both NHS and private patients are now in the top two categories overall for quality of care.

This figure is up from 70% at the beginning of 2018, with more than double the number of hospitals now having been assessed (447 compared with 200 in 2018). 

A similar improvement pattern was noted in other areas, such as providers’ core services, and in children’s and young people’s services, where standards are at similarly high levels compared with recent years.  

Dawn Hodgkins

IHPN director of regulation Dawn Hodgkins said: ‘This research highlights that the general standards of care and patient safety in the independent sector are very high. 

‘To see this improvement, despite the huge challenges presented by the pandemic and ongoing health system recovery, really demonstrates the commitment of clinicians and leaders across the independent sector to deliver the very best quality of care and the safest services.’  

Encouraging results

IHPN medical director Dr Howard Freeman said: ‘These are encouraging results and are in many ways a reflection of the growing maturity of the sector and the impact of better clinical governance. 

‘We have better systematic, written standards and frameworks – these are translating into the quality of service and care that patients are receiving. This is a firm foundation, but we must still be committed to yet more improvements.’


The report also highlights the need for continued, consistent gathering and analysis of data. 

Ms Hodgkins added: ‘One of the important reasons we undertook this work was to highlight where it’s not so easy to find data or evidence and, in some ways, it’s as important to know where there may be gaps. We see a need for more consistency in the way that quality, safety and outcome data is collected. 

‘That is why we have welcomed initiatives such as NHS England’s Outcomes and Registries Platform, through which independent providers will be able to submit data alongside their NHS peers. We look forward to continuing our work with NHS England on that initiative to support participation by independent providers.’

Parity in audits

She said the findings highlighted the need for robust data, which included all patients, regardless of who funded their care. 

There needed to be inclusion and parity across national audits, outcomes programmes and right across the patient pathway. 

‘To achieve this, we need to continue to develop the data landscape across the whole health system.

‘This means things like submission to Learning from Patient Safety Events (LFPSE), submission to the Outcomes Registry Platform (ORP), building on the early work of the Acute Data Alignment Programme (ADAPt) and understanding the importance and potential impact of the Federated Data Platform to name a few areas.’  

PHIN said data was collated and accurate as of October 2023.

Dawn Hodgkins writes more about the results in the Independent Practitioner Today’s February digital issue and on the features section of this website next Tuesday, 6 February.