HC Deb 17 January 1995 vol 252 cc442-4W
Mr. Trend

To ask the Secretary of State for Health in what ways openness and accountability are promoted An her Department and the services for which she is responsible.

Mrs. Virginia Bottomley

The information is as follows:

National Health Service

  • accountability through Ministers to Parliament.
  • annual reports and audited accounts from health authorities and national health service trusts.
  • health authority meetings open to the public.
  • NHS trusts' annual public meetings.
  • summary business plans by NHS trusts.
  • reports by local directors of public health on health needs and services.
  • clear patients' rights and national and local standards under the patients charter, and reports on results.
  • power to patients through general practitioner fundholders to ensure more accountability of service providers.
  • annual plans and reports by GP fundholders.
  • first ever performance ("league") tables giving comparative information for the public on their hospitals and ambulance services.
  • codes of conduct and accountability for the members of NHS bodies.
  • audit and remuneration committees to strengthen the role of non-executive members of NHS bodies.
  • registers of members' interests.
  • external, independent scrutiny by the Audit Commission.
  • statutory obligations to consult on substantial changes to services.
  • consultation documents on major proposals, with background and options.
  • statutory rights for community health councils to be consulted on substantial changes to services and to obtain information.
  • published strategies and plans for the purchase of health services for local people.
  • public contracts between the purchasers and providers of health services, including the quantity and quality of services to be provided.
  • statutory rights of access to personal health information.
  • published information on complaints.

Further plans include a code of practice on openness in the NHS, now out for consultation, setting out the public's right to information except in clearly defined circumstances; an accountability framework for GP fundholders; new procedures for appointments to NHS bodies, including advertisements, independent sifting panels and published criteria; a response to the Wilson review on NHS complaints; and a new and expanded patients charter.

Social services

  • statutory obligation on local authorities to publish information on children's services
  • statutory obligation on local authorities to publish community care plans and reviews of day care for children
  • local inspection units with a lay element, and published reports
  • national framework for local community care charter issued
  • statutory rights of access to social work records
  • statutory requirement for complaints procedures
  • Social Services Inspectorate's national programme covering all local authorities in England, with reports published and accessible to the public

Department of Health

  • accountability of Ministers to Parliament
  • a comprehensive overview of priorities, progress, expenditure and activity in the annual departmental report
  • National health service annual report, containing more information on developments and performance
  • detailed financial information contained in estimates and appropriation accounts, scrutinised by the National Audit Office and the Public Accounts Committee
  • annual report from the social services inspectorate on its activities and programme
  • annual report from the chief medical officer on the state of the public health
  • 5,649 replies to parliamentary questions in 1993–94
  • over 84,000 letters dealt with in 1993, including more than 25,000 for ministerial reply
  • a commitment to make information available except in clearly defined circumstances under the code of practice on access to Government information
  • detailed quarterly, six-monthly and annual statistical information in bulletins and reports, including a comprehensive annual compendium on health and personal social services in England
  • accountability to select committees, including the Select Committee on Health, the Public Accounts Committee and the Select Committee on the Parliamentary Commissioner for Administration
  • framework documents and published reports from the Medicines Control Agency, the Medical Devices Agency, the NHS Estates agency and the NHS Pensions agency; and reports and accounts from the youth treatment service
  • statements from all agencies adopting citizens charter principles
  • a charter for scheme members being produced by the NHS Pensions agency
  • NHS Estates agency accreditation for British standard 5750 on quality assurance and customer service