Patients asked to vet standards of hospital care
Patients are being asked for their views on a radical overhaul of care standards for NHS hospitals in England.
The Care Quality Commission (CQC) has outlined its new plans to judge doctors and nurses on key patient rights such as the right to enough food and drink.
The aim is to avoid another scandal like that at Stafford Hospital, where hundreds of patients died amid appalling levels of care.
The CQC admits its inspections have been less than ideal in the past.
From October, the CQC says it will start carrying out longer, more thorough inspections of hospitals, led by specialist inspectors to ensure they are meeting care and safety standards.
Those that are not will be held to account.
Hospitals will be given clear guidelines about what good care looks like.
CQC chairman David Prior said: "These changes mark a break from the past for the CQC.
"We have not been looking at the right things when we have inspected hospitals and we have not had the right level of clinical expertise to get under the skin of organisations.
"These proposals firmly put patients at the heart of what we do.
"It should mean that when someone goes into hospital, they have confidence that the hospital is getting the basic aspects of care right - the kind of care we all have a right to expect.
"These standards were not met at Stafford hospital.
"Our inspectors will focus on things that are meaningful to people, not on bureaucratic processes.
"They will not tick boxes but miss the point."
Katherine Murphy, of the Patients Association, welcomed the changes, saying they were long overdue.
"As a regulator, you would have expected that this would have been where their focus would have been, but we applaud the CQC for holding its hands up and saying regulation was based more on systems and processes and needs to look at what's most important to patients," she said.
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt said setting clear standards and publishing ratings was critical to regulation so that patients "have a single version of the truth about how their hospitals are performing on finance, leadership and, most importantly, the quality of care."