Three in four NHS hospitals are failing, according to the first set of official rankings comparing the majority of the health service.
New Ofsted-style rankings show 76 per cent of NHS hospital trusts have been given an overall rating of inadequate or requiring improvement.
Watchdogs said their greatest concern was safety, with three quarters of hospitals branded unsafe.
Last night the Health Secretary said the degree of variation across the country was “unacceptable” while senior doctors said the failings exposed were “severe and alarming”.
The watchdog has rated 98 hospital trusts – two thirds of those across the country.
Of those just two were given the top ranking of outstanding, with 22 judged to be good, 64 requiring improvement and 10 inadequate.
The poor state of hospitals is in contrast to nursing homes and GPs practices.
Of the 2,211 residential and nursing homes, 59 per cent were found to be providing good or outstanding care.
Of 976 GP and out of hours practices inspected, 11 per cent of the GP practices required improvement. Four per cent of those inspected were inadequate.
Health Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said: “We want to make our NHS the safest healthcare system in the world. There are some excellent examples of high quality care across the country but the level of variation is unacceptable.”
“That’s exactly why we set up CQC’s independent inspection regime which shines a light on poor care to drive up standards.”
The new system of Ofsted-style ratings was introduced last year following a string of scandals, and concern that poor care had been allowed to continue unchecked for years.
Last year, findings from the first inspections suggested four in five hospitals were not safe, but the watchdog tried to reassure the public that the findings might not be representative, as inspectors had started by looking at many trusts where concerns were known about.
Today it offered no such assurances, and said the findings showed “an unacceptable level of poor care” across the country.
Salford Royal NHS Foundation Trust and Frimley Park Hospital NHS Foundation were named as outstanding.
The 10 trusts branded inadequate are: Barts Health NHS Trust, Cambridge University Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Colchester Hospital University NHS Foundation Trust, East Kent Hospitals University NHS Foundation Trust, East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust, Heatherwood and Wexham Park Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, Medway NHS Foundation Trust, University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust, West Hertfordshire Hospitals NHS Trust and Wye Valley NHS Trust.
The report shows half of health and care providers made some improvement within six months of inspection.
David Behan, care quality commission chief executive said: “A key concern has been the safety of the care – a failure to learn when things go wrong, or not having the right number of staff in place with the right skills.”
He said the differences seen across the country were not just about how much NHS trusts and care homes were spending, but about the way organisations were run.
“The variation in care that we have observed is not just about the money. Good leaders are what make the difference – leaders who engage staff and people who use services and create a culture of continuous quality improvement,” he said.
Janet Davies, Chief Executive & General Secretary of the Royal College of Nursing said: “Variations in the quality of care are unacceptable, and this report demonstrates that those variations can be severe and alarming. The quality of care is too often poor, and in some cases unsafe, and this requires urgent attention.”
She said the scale of financial pressures in the NHS, with a £1b deficit racked up in just three months, meant there were concerns that the situation could further deteriorate.
“This report is stark but the issues it raises are not new – there needs to be a concerted effort from government, the NHS and local managers to ensure that there is enough staff to get through the coming winter and the years to come,” she said.
Katherine Murphy, chief executive of the Patients Association, said the findings were “very worrying”.
“The safety of patients should be the primary concern of all healthcare professionals and good quality healthcare is the right of all NHS users,” she said.
Roger Goss, co-director at Patient Concern, welcomed the national assessment as “an important way of putting pressure on people to smarten up their act”.
Caroline Abrahams, Charity Director at Age UK said: “The inconsistent quality the CQC has found across health and care in this country is worrying, and it’s also important to remember that the numbers of older people receiving social care are falling fast because of Government cuts.
Heidi Alexander MP, Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, said: “Jeremy Hunt cannot keep ignoring these serious warnings about unsafe and understaffed hospitals.
“With a difficult winter approaching, and hospitals facing financial crisis, the NHS is now in a precarious position,” she said.
Nearest tube – Elephant & Castle underground station (Northern and Bakerloo lines).
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Buses from Elephant and Castle – ask bus driver for Burgess Park. Bus numbers: 12, 171, 148, 176, 68, 484, 42, 40, 45