Star ratings unreliable assessment of hospital performance, says The King's Fund in response to healthcare commission report

Speaking in response to the Healthcare Commission's annual report on the performance of NHS trusts in England, The King's Fund chief executive Niall Dickson said:

'The star ratings have had their day. They were a useful first move towards producing performance management information for the NHS, but they are of little use to the public. It is no good knowing that your local hospital has long waiting times when what you really want to know is exactly when your hip operation will be.

'Stars are a good way of rating hotels but don't work so well for complex organisations like hospitals which may have good and not so good departments. That is why we would like to see the Healthcare Commission focus on what information patients do need to make informed choices about their health care.'

The King's Fund chief economist John Appleby said:

'The Healthcare Commission's report raises some serious questions concerning the initial basis for selecting trusts for foundation status. Three out of the four foundation trusts who lost a star this year did so due to financial planning problems. Yet they had been thoroughly assessed by the independent regulator as being financially sound. Either the star rating system is at fault or the independent regulator has reached a wrong assessment.

'But with nearly a third of trusts in line for foundation status having lost one star, and some notable variation in the star rating of some trusts this year compared with last year, it seems clear that the rating system is too volatile to represent a proper assessment of NHS hospital performance.'

Notes to editors: 

1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King's Fund media and public relations office on 020 7307 2585.

2. The King's Fund is an independent charitable foundation working for better health, especially in London. We carry out research, policy analysis and development activities, working on our own, in partnerships, and through grants. We are a major resource to people working in health, offering leadership and education courses; seminars and workshops; publications; information and library services; and conference and meeting facilities.