Black stands by no-name policy for failing councils

13 Apr 00
Auditor general Bob Black used last week's CIPFA Scottish branch conference to defend his controversial policy of not naming councils and NHS trusts that have performed badly in audit reports.

14 April 2000

Black said he favoured the approach of publishing initial baseline reports, which show variations in service performance across unnamed councils or trusts. Poor performers would be given 18 months to two years to improve and, if they did not, would then be named.

But he admitted he had already come under intense pressure to name audited bodies, following the publication of a report into cleanliness in Scottish hospitals. 'I am prepared to hold the line on this,' he told delegates. 'The audit report is not the end of a study, it's the beginning of a process.'

The report, A clean bill of health, shows that in a third of all hospital wards in Scotland, toilets, sinks and baths are cleaned less often than the recommended minimum frequencies. There were concerns that this could lead to an increase in the number of hospital-acquired infections.

A report by the National Audit Office in February found that 9% of inpatients in England have a hospital-acquired infection at any one time. If the same percentage applies in Scotland, it would equate to 10,000 infections a year at a cost of £100m.

Black told Public Finance that he had judged 'there was no immediate and serious threat to the wellbeing' of patients, and so anonymity should be preserved. It was more appropriate to give hospital managers the chance to rectify the situation.

'Hospital-acquired infection is mainly to do with the cleanliness standards of the clinical function in hospitals and not due to whether toilets are cleaned or dust is swept off the floors,' he said.

But he added that anonymity could not always be guaranteed. 'There will be unfortunate occasions when an organisation will be found seriously wanting on some aspect of performance. There is no doubt in my mind that the body should be named immediately.'


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