Health conditions in London are deteriorating while the rest of the country improves, a new Healthcare Commission report revealed today.
"For the first time, our assessment now shows a gap between London and the rest of the country," the Commission noted.
The independent watchdog demanded action to fix the problem areas for London's NHS trusts - primarily poor A&E waiting times, limited access to GPs, prolonged waiting time from referral to treatment, and delayed screening for breast cancer.
There has also been alarmingly little improvement in infection control and the effort to reduce MRSA rates have proved substandard.
"It is simply scandalous that only 40 per cent of acute and specialist trusts are complying with standards and have met their MRSA targets," said Liberal Democrat health spokesman Norman Lamb.
Acute trusts were expected to meet a 60 per cent reduction target in MRSA cases over three years, which means a maximum of 12 reports of the super bug. Beyond this, the report's results also revealed that a quarter of the NHS has failed to meet one or more of the three core standards relating to infection control.
"At last a proper assessment has taken place," Lamb commented.
The assessment also highlights the need for significant improvements in primary care services. Most severe is the drop - 81 per cent to 30 per cent - in the number of Primary Care Trusts (PCT) allowing their patients to see GPs within two days.
The Commission calls the PCTs' performance 'disappointing,' with only 33 per cent rated 'excellent' or 'good' on their service quality, though this is an improvement from last year, when only 26 per cent reached that level.
The primary care sector faced the most demanding rating scheme out of all NHS trusts, but the Commission deemed this necessary because it delivers 88 per cent of the country's healthcare.
Despite the various problem areas, the report remained largely positive.
"Overall, 151 trusts - more than a third of the NHS - improved their rating for the quality of their services this year," it said. Over 60 per cent of trusts were rated 'good' or 'excellent,' up 20 per cent from two years before.
The NHS received considerable praise for its progress, with 100 trusts receiving an 'excellent' score and the first ever 'double-excellent' PCT rating for Salford PCT.
Congratulatory letters were sent out to the top 57 NHS trusts from Health Secretary, Alan Johnson and Healthcare Commission Chairman, Sir Ian Kennedy.
These organisations have "achieved a level of performance that all trusts should aspire to," Mr Johnson and Mr Kennedy told the successful trusts in an effort to give them the "recognition they deserve".
Yet, five per cent of NHS trusts were still rated as 'weak' - a number called "unacceptable" by health campaigner Claire Lilley.
"We are pleased to see an overall improvement in the quality of services in Trusts across England, but thousands of patients are simply not receiving the quality of care they are entitled to," Ms Lilley said.
"It's not time for the NHS to crack open the champagne."
With ratings for all of England's 391 NHS trusts, this is the most comprehensive report and challenging assessment the commission has every published.