The government has unveiled its plans for a new outcomes framework to underpin the revamped National Health Service and establish accountability at a national level “in an open and transparent way”.

The NHS Outcomes Framework will consist of a set of national outcome goals to help give an indication of the overall performance of the Service, as well as provide a mechanism by which the Health Secretary can hold the new independent NHS Commissioning Board to account for securing improved health outcomes.

“It is about determining how the success of the NHS should be judged and, therefore, the success of the government in delivering our vision for healthcare,” the Department of Health said, and added that it should act as a catalyst for driving quality across all services. But it was also quick to stress that the new framework will not be used as a tool to performance manage providers of care.

The consultation document Transparency in Outcomes - a framework for the NHS suggests five outcome domains: preventing people from dying prematurely; enhancing the quality of life for people with long-term conditions; helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or following injury; ensuring people have a positive experience of care; and treating and caring for people in a safe environment and protecting them from avoidable harm.

The government is now seeking opinion on the structure and core principles that should underpin the development of the framework, as well as the more specific outcome measures that should be used.

Once these are in place, it will be up to the NHS Commissioning Board to determine how best to deliver improvements against the outcomes by working with GP consortia, the DH said. For example, the Board can commission Quality Standards from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which it can then use to issue more detailed commissioning guidance on how best to meet the national outcome goals.

GP commissioning
The Board will also be responsible for designing and developing a commissioning framework for GP consortia, that will need to flow from and support the delivery of the national outcome goals set in the Outcomes Framework, the DH noted.

“Instead of politically motivated targets which lack clinical evidence, we will measure the outcomes that are most important to patients and that are relevant to healthcare professionals. These will be backed up by authoritative, evidence-based quality standards that will ensure everyone understands how those outcomes can be achieved,” Health Secretary Andrew Lansley said.

A spokesman for the British Medical Association told PharmaTimes UK News that, broadly speaking, it welcomes the move towards a greater focus on patient outcomes, but that the practicalities of this still need to be ironed out.

Transparency in Outcomes - a framework for the NHS is the first in a stream of consultations to be published over the coming weeks seeking the views of healthcare professionals, the public and other interested parties on the government’s proposals.