The Government has announced that NHS Trust hospitals must appoint a clinical professional to take charge of quality issues.
The new drive comes in the wake of a number of incidents that have drawn attention to declining NHS quality standards.
Health Minister Alan Milburn said it is the first time NHS Trusts will have to be publicly accountable for the quality of services they offer to patients.
Subject to legislation, the requirement is scheduled to come into force in 1999. The legal duty will be complemented by. a new framework of clinical governance, which aims to ensure the monitoring and improvement of clinical quality.
Milburn said: “Balancing the books remains important, but quality of care to patients should be the first priority.”