NHS backs new code of conduct

17 Jan 02
The NHS Confederation has welcomed the government's indication that it will establish a code of conduct to regulate health service managers and prevent scandals such as the recently revealed waiting-list 'fiddles'.

18 January 2002

At a meeting of the Public Accounts Committee on January 14, NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp acknowledged that the government was working on a code of conduct to help prevent cases of maladministration by NHS managers.

Responding to questions on the National Audit Office's report into 'inappropriate adjustments' made to NHS waiting lists by nine trusts, Crisp said the code of conduct 'would be introduced soon'. He also told the PAC that trusts would face spot checks by the Audit Commission as a further way of preventing statistical manipulation.

Alistair Henderson, policy manager at the NHS Confederation, told Public Finance that health service managers would welcome Crisp's comments. 'It is a much better way forward than the sort of formal regulatory body called for in the Kennedy Report,' he said.

Professor Ian Kennedy's investigation into the Bristol Royal Infirmary baby hearts scandal produced a number of recommendations on the future role of NHS managers, which the government is expected to respond to shortly.

Henderson said it would be easy to incorporate a code of conduct into management contracts and that it was 'right and proper' that action should be taken in the wake of the NAO report.

The PAC criticised current NHS structures for allowing managers who manipulated figures to resign from their post, and then get a new job at another trust without being held to account.

Some of the chief executives and managers of the nine trusts named by the NAO resigned from their posts before a full investigation could be completed. Many were given large pay-offs, with one individual receiving around £250,000.

Crisp said the code of conduct, and other planned changes to the structure of NHS management, would help prevent this in future.

Henderson agreed that halting such pay-offs was in the best interests of the industry, but said: 'There is a case against over-reaction towards management payments.'

He added that managers should also have rights. 'There are a number of contractual issues at stake. It's difficult to envisage how they could be tied up in a code of conduct and other new initiatives.'


Did you enjoy this article?