The latest round of performance declarations by National Health Service trusts has revealed that, although the number adhering to key government standards has risen from last year, specific areas, such as compliance with the Hygiene Code, are in need of urgent attention.

Every trust in England is required to issue a public declaration on performance in meeting the government’s core standards as part of the Healthcare Commission’s annual health check, which replaced the system of star ratings in the financial year 2005/6 to give patients and the public a more comprehensive picture of how well trusts are performing.

According to the Commission, which still needs to check the accuracy of the data, analysis of the results show that: more trusts claim to be hitting all targets, with those declaring full compliance rising from 34% in 2005/6 to 40% in the current year; the overall compliance rate is high, at 94%; and the most marked improvement appears to be in London and the southeast.

60% need to do more

On the downside, however, the declarations reveal that: 60% of trusts need to do more to achieve full compliance; more are declaring non-compliance in each of the three standards under the Hygiene Code; and some are still grappling with issues such as treating patients with dignity and respect, patient records, mandatory training and decontamination of equipment.

Commenting on the results Anna Walker, Chief Executive of the Healthcare Commission, said: “If it is confirmed that more trusts are meeting the core standards than last year, then that would be a significant success.”

And Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, commented: “It is good news that more trusts are telling the Healthcare Commission that they meet all of the standards set by the government and that overall compliance is high at 94%."

“NHS organisations will be looking closely at the today’s ‘interim’ results and focusing particularly on the areas where compliance has slipped – namely in the Hygiene Code and on dignity and respect. These two particular issues are major priorities for both the NHS and patients and it is vitally important that we work towards reaching full compliance on standards in these areas over the coming months,” she added.

'Shambolic state'

But Katherine Murphy, Director of Communications at the Patients Association, was more damning. She claims that the report “yet again highlights the shambolic state of our NHS where if everyone reading this today remembers that next week they too could be a patient then we might all confront the issues and take the actions we know are necessary.”

“We are certainly getting as many complaints as ever on our Helpline,” she said, adding: “It saddens us to hear that hospitals are not meeting core standards in preventing healthcare-associated infections.”

The NHS annual performance ratings for 2006/7 will be published on October 18.