So star ratings for health authorities have been scrapped. After a
difficult four years, the Healthcare Commission has now accepted
that stars are too simplistic a measure for the complexity of
health care organisations. It claims that a new system – based on
paragraph-long judgements rather than stars – will build a “richer”
picture of health authorities’ performance.
But if star ratings are too simplistic for the NHS, surely they are
too simplistic for social care?
What we know is that the government invested billions in the NHS
and expected to be rewarded with better services. Yet every year,
the health authorities’ star ratings have generated more
embarrassment than applause for New Labour. By contrast, social
care has had a fraction of the NHS’s investment, yet star ratings
in social services have given government what it wants: consistent,
quantifiable improvement to parade for the cameras.
It seems highly inequitable that underfunded yet successful social
services should continue to struggle with their stars, while the
NHS gets a more “sensitive” system. If there’s a better system to
be had, social care deserves it too – whatever that might mean for
the government’s image.