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Using routine intelligence to target inspection of healthcare providers in England
  1. M Bardsley1,
  2. D J Spiegelhalter2,
  3. I Blunt1,
  4. X Chitnis1,
  5. A Roberts1,
  6. S Bharania1
  1. 1
    Healthcare Commission, Finsbury Tower, Bunhill Row, London, UK
  2. 2
    MRC Biostatistics Unit, Cambridge, UK
  1. Dr M Bardsley, Healthcare Commission, Finsbury Tower, Bunhill Row, London EC1Y 8TG, UK; martin.bardsley{at}


Background: The Healthcare Commission, the national regulator for the National Health Service in England, has to assess providers (NHS trusts) on compliance with core standards in a way that targets appropriate local inspection resources.

Objectives: To develop and evaluate a system for targeting inspections in 2006 of 44 standards in 567 healthcare organisations.

Methods: A wide range of available information was structured as a series of indicators (called items) that mapped to the standards. Each item was scored on a common scale (a modified Z-score), and these scores were aggregated to indicate risks of undeclared non-compliance for all trusts and standards. In addition, local qualitative intelligence was coded and scored.

Results: The information sets used comprised 463 875 observations structured in 1689 specific items, drawn from 83 different data streams. Follow-up inspections were undertaken on the 10% of trusts with the highest-risk scores (where the trust had declared compliance with a standard) and an additional 10% of trusts randomly selected from the remainder. The success of the targeting was measured by the number of trust declarations that were “qualified” following inspection. In the risk-based sample, the proportion of inspected standards that were qualified (26%) was significantly higher than in the random sample (13%). The success rate for targeting varied between standards and care sectors.

Conclusion: This innovative approach to using information to target inspection activity achieved its overall aims. The method worked better for some standards and in some settings than for others, and is being improved in the light of experience gained. Such applications are increasingly important as modern regulators strive to be targeted and proportionate in their activities.

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  • Competing interests: None.