Recommendation 150

Power of inspection for scrutiny committees

Accepted in principle
Scrutiny committees should have powers to inspect providers, rather than relying on local patient involvement structures to carry out this role, or should actively work with those structures to trigger and follow up inspections where appropriate, rather than receiving reports without comment or suggestions for action.

Under current provisions, bodies carrying out local authority scrutiny functions have legal powers to require providers of NHS services to provide information and to attend scrutiny meetings to answer questions.  This could include making a request to visit providers’ premises.  Where a body carrying out local authority scrutiny function had concerns about a specific provider, they could refer the matter to the Care Quality Commission, who have powers of inspection.

Meanwhile, local Healthwatch has the power to enter and view certain premises, as well as powers to provide information and refer concerns to local authority scrutiny bodies.

Giving further powers to local authorities would therefore be duplicative and potentially burdensome. It might also create confusion over roles and responsibilities.

The work of local authority health scrutiny is already integral to ensuring an appropriate inspection regime is in place locally.  By working collaboratively with both providers and local Healthwatch, local authority scrutiny bodies can ensure that concerns from patients and the public trigger further investigation where necessary.

The Department of Health has worked with partners to develop guidance that will support local authorities to carry out effective scrutiny.  The guidance describes the new powers and duties provided by the Local Authorities (Public Health, Health and Wellbeing Boards and Health Scrutiny) Regulations 2013, and underlines the importance of all partners in the local system working together to improve the quality of services.

The guidance is due to be published in November 2013.

Update

In June 2014, the Department issued guidance to local authorities on how to scrutinise local health systems. The guidance supports local government, the NHS and other local partners to understand and develop their roles in relation to health scrutiny, and ensure that it adds value for local communities. The publication of the guidance was put back in order to ensure consistency with related policy around local consultation on proposals for service reconfiguration, and to allow additional engagement with local authorities and other system partners.

The Department of Health, NHS England and Public Health England have jointly commissioned a programme of support for 2014/15 for local authorities in exercising their health scrutiny powers.