Hospital Regulations and Standards
In the UK, the majority of healthcare is provided by the National Health Service (NHS). However, some people also choose to undergo care in private hospitals. Both NHS and private hospitals are well-regulated to ensure that medical staff are delivering the care that patients deserve. Regardless of whether the hospital is private or NHS operated, each one is regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC), Healthcare Inspectorate Wales, Healthcare Improvement Scotland, or the Regulation and Quality Improvement Agency in Northern Ireland . Certain standards are also set on a national level, which vary according to the services that the hospital is able to deliver.
How NHS and Private Hospitals are Regulated
The body that regulates each hospital will depend on where in the country it is. As can be seen from the introduction, there are different regulating agencies for each of the UK's countries. However, all of them regulate and monitor hospitals in similar ways, following the model of the CQC.
In order for a hospital to operate as a hospital in the UK, it needs to be registered with the CQC or the relevant governing body for the country it is in. Once registered with the CQC, that hospital is then liable to be legally pursued by the body if it does not meet the care standards that have been set out. The CQC and other governing bodies want to ensure that all patients are treated with dignity and respect, that they receive adequate nourishment while in hospital, that the environment they are in is clean and safe, and that staffing services are adequate. If these standards are not met, the hospital that is failing to meet them may find that they face harsh penalties from the CQC.
In order to ensure that hospitals are meeting the standards that have been set, the CQC will periodically monitor them and produce reports. If there are areas where the hospital is found to be lacking, recommendations for change will be made. Sometimes, the CQC will review a hospital and whether it is fit for purpose if a high profile case arises. For example, the Foster Report released early in 2013 examined whether hospitals in West Staffordshire were meeting the needs of the patients in them. This reports was initiated after it was found that the hospitals were not meeting the needs of patients in terms of dignity. Finally, the CQC and other governing bodies collate data based on the forms filled in by staff when care is delivered and when incidents occur. The data collected can then be used to identify areas where improvements need to be made.
What Standards do NHS and Private Hospitals Need to Meet?
The UK private and NHS hospital standards clearly state that patients will receive the care that meets their needs. Patients are also entitled to meals that meet their dietary needs; this means religious and ethical dietary choices must be met. Patients are guaranteed the coordination of care services if they are moved from one place of care to another, and they are free from discrimination on the basis of culture, gender, age, sexuality, and disability.
The standards outlined are also designed to ensure that patients remain safe. This means they are free from abuse, will receive care in a clean environment, will get medicines when needed and in a safe way, will be cared for in a safe place, and will not be harmed by any equipment that is unsafe or unsuitable. These regulations cover recommendations that focus on daily tasks, such as cleaning and hand washing. This safety is complimented by the recommendation that staff are competent and able to carry out their jobs efficiently enough to maintain patient welfare.
To ensure that hospital standards are met, governing bodies recommend that hospital managers monitor how their hospital's services are being delivered periodically. This regulation also includes the assurance that patient records will be stored in a place that protects privacy, but is still accessible when needed. Finally, it is the hospital's duty to ensure that patients have access to a complaints procedure so that they can ensure their grievances are dealt with in a prompt manner.
How Those Receiving Care in UK Hospitals can Complain
Although rigorous regulations and standards are in place for individuals receiving care in NHS hospitals, there may still come a time when patients need to complain. This may arise if they feel that their needs are not being met, or if they feel that the hospital is failing to meet the requirements of its governing quality agency in some other way.
Patients and relatives who are unhappy with the way a hospital is operating should begin the complaints process by lodging a formal complaint with the hospital itself. Hospital staff should provide complaint details to those who request them; this should include an address to write to, as well as phone number to call. All complaints need to be acknowledged by the hospital management team, who will then outline how they will deal with the grievance that has been put forward. By law, all hospitals must have a clearly outlined complaints procedure. If they do not, the governing body responsible for them can penalise them. NHS hospitals are governed by the NHS Constitution.
It a patient or the individual making a complaint is not happy with the way their complaint has been handled, they have the right to call the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsmen, who will take their complaint further. In addition to this, there is always the option of contacting the governing body who regulates the hospital in the area it is situated in.
Although NHS and private hospitals are both regulated by the same governing bodies, they both have the same obligations as far as their patients are concerned. By not meeting them, hospitals risk breaking the law and can face tough penalties from the bodies that govern them. This process is usually enough to ensure that care standards are met, and patients have full access to a complaints procedure.