A fresh start: ‘Small armies’ of clinicians to save the NHS

Partisan turmoil over NHS failings are being put to one side today, with a new inspection regime being dispatched to hospitals across England and Wales.

Sir Mike Richards is now two days into his new job as chief inspector of hospitals and is unveiling his plan to assess the "next wave" of 18 hospitals to be scrutinised, after Sir Bruce Keogh's report into high mortality rates at 14 hospital trusts triggered bruising Commons exchanges earlier this week.

"We'll have large teams, 20 or so people, who will go into a hospital," Richards said.

"We will look to see if a hospital is safe, effective, caring, responsive to patients' needs and if it is well-led. We can then form from that a complete diagnosis of what's happening in that hospital.

Rather than looking at the discredited Care Quality Commission's 'theme'-based inspections the new inspections will involve more doctors, nurses and patients to build up a picture of each hospital in its entirety.

"What we've got to do is to make sure we've got to bring everybody up to the standards of the best so that patients and the public can get the public they want, they need and they deserve," Richards added.

Shadow health minister Jamie Reed offered Labour's support, saying the chief inspector was right to pilot his proposals with a varied group of hospitals.

"[He] will have our support in exposing poor care in the A&Es, wards and elderly care services he visits," he said.

"Four thousand nursing jobs have been lost on this government's watch and A&E queues have reached their longest in a decade because of David Cameron's NHS betrayal."

Six of the 18 hospitals being inspected before Christmas will be ones which the CQC has already flagged up concerns about quality.