Foster plays down watchdogs loss of NHS audit role

2 May 02
Reports of the Audit Commission's demise have been greatly exaggerated, its controller Sir Andrew Foster claimed this week.

03 May 2002

Despite losing an important part of its health watchdog role because of the government's decision to create an audit body to oversee the NHS, Foster said that the commission remained in rude health.

In a bullish interview, Foster told Public Finance that despite the disappointment of losing work, the commission still had plenty of other areas to oversee.

He added that the work that had been lost – drawing up national studies on NHS practices – formed only a minor part of the watchdog's overall schedule.

This still includes appointing auditors to NHS bodies and local government, and a nationwide health check on the state of councils through Comprehensive Performance Assessments.

'We knew there was a wish to rationalise things [the audit process]. We supported that,' he said.

The prime minister told the commission of the government's wishes on the morning of the Budget on April 17.

Foster said that Tony Blair was at pains to reaffirm Number 10's confidence in the commission and said that it had produced 'outstanding' work in the past.

The commission will not lose its work immediately as the body being established, the Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, is not expected to be up and running before spring 2004 at the earliest.

'It looks like we are still in business on national plans for the next two years,' Foster concluded.


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