Joint talks under way to simplify audit process

12 Oct 00
Audit Commission controller Andrew Foster this week called for a radical streamlining of NHS audit and inspection in order to drive out inefficiencies and duplication in the current system.

13 October 2000

At the CIPFA health conference in London, Foster said the government had created 12 new regulators since coming to power and, on average, NHS trusts faced regular examinations from 30 outside agencies.

Further tiers of regulation had been introduced with the implementation of new arrangements for inspection of the NHS. The commission would have to work in partnership with the Commission for Health Improvement studies, for example.

The time had come to streamline the process. 'Some elements of our current arrangements are duplicatory and they need to be rationalised. We have a desperate need to make sure we bring our functions together to make them useful to you. We need to reinvent the way public services are regulated and that means bringing these together,' he said.

Over the next three years, the Audit Commission would play its part in cutting out inefficiencies in the current system, he said. The commission was in negotiations with the NHS Executive, the Treasury and Number 10 about its role in the government's new system of performance management in the NHS.

And he added: 'I think you, the user, has every right to demand from us the same efficiencies and lack of duplication we demand from you. You should say every year, “Where's your competitiveness, where's your decent price?”.'

There would be significant differences in the way the watchdog would carry out its NHS studies in future. It would examine services from patients' perspectives, looking into performance across a range of bodies, Foster said.

In a survey of the commission's strengths and weaknesses, NHS bodies said that national surveys were not always 'germane' to local situations, he added. The Commission would tackle this criticism by using the data generated by its national studies to benchmark trusts' performance. 'This is a new approach and there will be less reliance on national studies.'

The commission is creating an electronic database with this information, which NHS bodies could use to assess their performance.


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