NHS hospitals with the highest standards of patient safety and care are to be given contracts to transform those which are struggling, the government has announced.

Each of the 11 Trusts which have now been placed in “special measures,” in the wake of the scandal over standards at Mid-Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and the subsequent Keogh Review, is to be partnered with one of the best NHS Trusts in the country, under a new system of improvement contracts being introduced as part of a new, tougher inspection regime.

This new approach could also apply to any further Trusts that are placed in special measures, a step which will involve them losing their freedom to operate as an autonomous body. What form this takes in each hospital will be for the regulator Monitor to decide, but it could mean losing the freedom to appoint their own executive teams or set their own operating plans.

The high-performing hospitals will enter into contracts with the NHS Trust Development Authority or Monitor to support the “special measures” Trusts. They will be reimbursed for their time, and will have access to a special incentive fund through which, if appropriate, they could be paid extra, if their assistance provides real results.

The capability of the 11 “special measures” Trusts' leaders is under ongoing review, and each Trust will be given an Improvement Director, appointed by and accountable to either Monitor or the NHS Trust Development Authority, depending on whether or not they are a Foundation Trust.

Each of the 11 Trusts will publish their improvement plans via NHS Choices, and will update them on a monthly basis. Their progress updates will also be provided to the media.

In addition, the government has announced that more senior clinicians, as well as talent from outside the NHS, are to be recruited to manage hospitals under a new fast-track leadership programme, which will include time at a leading business school. 

Discussing the new measures, the Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said that his top priority is turning around those hospitals which have been placed under special measures, and that he is committing to “total transparency” on their progress.

“In place of the old approach of paying management consultants to analyse the problems, we are giving contracts to the best in the NHS to implement solutions they have tried and tests,” added Mr Hunt.