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Friday, 9 November, 2001, 11:24 GMT
Ofsted-style body for NHS
CHI will have more powers to improve hospital performance
CHI will have more powers to improve hospital performance
The NHS is to have an Ofsted-style inspection body with powers to act against failing hospitals.

The Commission for Health Improvement, (CHI) the existing health watchdog, is to get the new powers under the NHS Reform Bill, laid before parliament on Friday.

The Bill also provides for the abolition of Community Health Councils, and their replacement with a Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, plus new local bodies.

CHI is to become fully independent under the new rules.

Ministers say the body will be free to make whatever comments it wants about the state of the NHS.

Peter Homa, CHI chief executive
Peter Homa, CHI chief executive
It will publish an annual report on the state of the health service which ministers will have to respond to.

In the same way Ofsted can tackle failing schools, CHI will be able to put failing hospitals under "special measures".

It has been suggested this could mean taking over the management of badly run and failing hospitals.

CHI could also set out what steps failing hospitals must take to reach the desired standard.

Power for frontline staff

Mr Milburn said: "This Bill is the next step in our programme to radically reform the NHS.

"To provide more power for health professionals at the NHS frontline, a bigger say for patients and an independent inspectorate to raise standards across the country."

He said tiers of management were being "stripped away", with power and resources given to frontline doctors and nurses.

We are determined to see a significant improvement in the quality of patient care and the widening of our role announced today gives us the tools to do that

Peter Homa, CHI
CHI, which covers England and Wales, will also be able to rate hospitals from nought to three stars, something that was done for the first time this year by the Department of Health.

CHI will also be able to appoint its own chief executive, replacing the current system under which ministers make the appointment.

Its remit will be extended so it can inspect non-NHS premises where health care is provided.

CHI said the measures set out in the Bill were a strong endorsement of its work to date.

Chief executive Peter Homa, said: "CHI has been given much wider responsibility in the bill and this is recognition of the work we have already done in improving the NHS.

"We are determined to see a significant improvement in the quality of patient care and the widening of our role announced today gives us the tools to do that."

The commission was first set up in 2000, acting under ministerial control.

The recommendation that CHI should be independent of ministers came in the report of the inquiry into Bristol Baby Heart Deaths.

Professor Ian Kennedy, who led the inquiry, said the commission did not have powers to enforce compliance with its recommendations, and that it was too closely linked with the Department of Health.

Under CHI's original remit, the department sets its membership, resources and agenda.

Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation said: "The Bill will play a major part in reforming the NHS in England and we strongly welcome the measures it contains."


The NHS Reform Bill also paves the way for the establishment of the Council for the Regulation of Health Care Professionals, which will oversee the separate professional regulators, such as the General Medical Council.

It also sets out plans for the scrapping of two thirds of health authorities, and for money to be channelled directly to GP led primary care groups and trusts.

Angeline Burke, senior policy officer at the Association of Community Health Councils, said: "The proposed alternatives to CHCs, as set out in the bill, fall far short of meeting the widespread concerns about the independence of the new bodies and their lack of integration."

Jackie Glatter, of the Consumers' Association said questioned how effectively the new patient bodies would work.

"It's critical that these questions are addressed for the new bodies to fulfil their potential."

See also:

25 Sep 01 | NHS Performance 2001
Star ratings handed to hospitals
03 Sep 01 | Health
Report damns NHS complaints
18 Jul 01 | Health
Milburn promises higher standards
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