Quality and safety in the independent healthcare sector 2023


For many years the CQC rated outpatient and diagnostic services together for acute independent services. More recently, diagnostics services have been rated separately but not all organisations have been inspected under this new approach. In turn, we only have a partial picture of diagnostics provided by the sector. To complicate matters further, some independent organisations provide in-house diagnostic services for NHS trusts. In those cases, the ratings are typically allocated to the Trust, not the independent provider, so the full extent of independent sector diagnostic provision is not always obvious from CQC data. 

Despite these challenges, understanding diagnostic quality has never been more important given increasing investment in the diagnostic sector and the introduction of Community Diagnostic Centres that are having a major impact on the national diagnostic infrastructure. 

Given all these caveats, core ratings for diagnostic and imaging services are the most relevant measure for independent providers. 370 independent sector acute hospitals (both specialist and non-specialist) have ratings for this measure, compared to 45 NHS hospitals. 

The graph below shows the distribution of ratings among these services. 

85% of independent providers have good or outstanding ratings compared to 51% of NHS organisations, though we note that a much smaller number of NHS providers have been rated for this service so far. 

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