HC Deb 17 June 2002 vol 387 cc139-40W
Mr. Andrew Turner

To ask the Chancellor of the Exchequer what functions will be fulfilled by the NHS auditors referred to in his budget statement; and how these will differ from the current functions, in respect of the NHS, of the (a) National Audit Office and (b) Audit Commission. [51935]

Mr. Hutton

I have been asked to reply.

It is proposed that the new commission for health care audit and inspection will include as its principal roles:

  • Inspecting all national health service hospitals;
  • Licensing private health care provision;
  • Conducting NHS value for money audits on a national basis;
  • Validating published performance assessment statistics on the NHS, including waiting list information;
  • Publishing star ratings for all NHS organisations with the ability to recommend special measures where there are persistent problems;
  • Publishing reports on the performance of NHS organisations both individually and collectively;
  • Independent scrutiny of patient complaints;
  • Publishing an annual report to Parliament on national progress on health care and how resources have been used.

In relation to the NHS, the main responsibilities of the Audit Commission currently are to:

  • Appoint auditors to audit the accounts of health bodies
  • Prescribe the way in which auditors act through a Code of Audit Practice
  • Set a scale of audit fees payable, and
  • Carry out 'value for money' studies on the provision of services by audited bodies.

The 'value for money' work is currently carried out at the national level by the Audit Commission and, as part of the local audit of NHS bodies, by auditors appointed by the Audit Commission.

In future the Audit Commission value for money work carried out at both the national and local levels will be transferred to the new body. The Audit Commission will retain responsibility for the financial audit of NHS bodies.

The current role of the National Audit Office in relation to the NHS will remain unchanged. They will continue to audit the summarised accounts of the NHS; to ensure that public money has been spent for the purposes which Parliament intended; to hold the Department accountable for the way it uses taxpayers' money, and to conduct a number of value for money investigations each year.