An Overview of Out of Hours Benchmark
Using data to Improve Care: A new national benchmark for Out of Hours services
The Department of Health were keen to drive reliable comparisons of performance across out of hours services in England, building on the established national quality requirements, but breaking new ground in measuring outcomes as well as process. Following a competitive tender, the Primary Care Foundation were appointed in November 2007 to develop a benchmark of out of hours services that would be seen as credible by commissioners and providers alike and would serve as a basis for service improvement. The overall aim was to make accurate comparisons across different services so that providers and commissioners were in a position to recognise and take action to improve care for their patients.
The first round of the benchmark was completed in March 2009 by the Primary Care Foundation and involved 63 different services measured on a wide range of performance indicators, ranging from cost, to quality, outcomes, productivity and patient experience. The second benchmark was completed in November 2009, involving 90 services and including a patient experience questionnaire returned by almost 10,000 recent service users across England, carried out by CFEP UK Surveys. The third benchmark, launched in November 2010, looked for the first time at peak demand for services during Christmas 2009 and New Year 2010, rather than ‘normal’ demand, focusing on a narrower series of performance measures. The fourth benchmark again looked at performance across the full range of indicators, including patient experience and was completed in April 2012. For the first time, headline results were openly available on this website.
The benchmark is rigorous, being based on a sample data extract typically of several thousand cases, supplemented by web based questionnaires, as well as a specially commissioned patient experience survey. All of this ensures that we are genuinely comparing ‘like with like’.
The benchmark has now been up and running for four years, and two thirds of commissioners across England made separate decisions to buy into this service. Commissioners understand that this type of information is the currency for effective commissioning of urgent care. There is already evidence that the benchmark is a powerful catalyst for action and there are good examples of how it has led to changes in the way services are delivered and significant improvements in patient care.
We are now looking at developing a new extended urgent care benchmark to support the new clinical commissioners as they hold the wider urgent and emergency care system to account. More information will be available soon.