Accreditation has been recommended as a mechanism for assuring the quality of private sector health services in low-income countries, especially where regulatory systems are weak. A survey was conducted in Mumbai, India, in 1997-98 to elicit the views of the principal stakeholders on the introduction of accreditation and what form it should take. There was a high level of support for the classical features: voluntary participation, a standards-based approach to assessing hospital performance, periodic external assessment by health professionals, and the introduction of quality assurance measures to assist hospitals in meeting these standards. Hospital owners, professional bodies and government officials all saw potential - though different - advantages in accreditation: for owners and professionals it could give them a competitive edge in a crowded market, while government officials reckoned it could increase their influence over an unregulated private market. Areas of disagreement emerged; for example, hospital owners were opposed to government or third party payment bodies having a dominant role in running an accreditation system. The growing strength of a health service user representative lobby in Mumbai is an additional reason why this would be a suitable place for piloting such a system. The biggest obstacle to introducing accreditation in poorly resourced settings, such as India, is in how to finance it. The provisional support of the principal stakeholders for such a development, demonstrated in this study, will require a commitment from government and policymakers if the potential benefits of accreditation to the health of the population are to be realised.
Health Policy and Planning (2001) 16 (Suppl 2) 70-79