Abstracts: August 21st, 2003

The document provides advice and recommendations on the scrutiny of health services for both local authority overview and scrutiny committees and NHS organisations. It will also be useful for patients’ forums as well as other organisations representing the views and interests of patients and the public.For the first time, democratically elected, community representatives have the right to scrutinise how local health services are provided and developed for their constituents. The powers enable overview and scrutiny committees to consider local services by inviting senior staff to provide information and explanations about how local needs are being addressed. Members of scrutiny committees need to take a constructive but challenging approach to the role, bringing together evidence and people’s experience to identify priority issues and drive forward improvement. To achieve this, it is important for elected councilors who are involved in overview and scr utiny of health to gain an understanding of the NHS and the provision of health services, as well as to understand local needs.

Committees might start by identifying positive outcomes for scrutiny – for example, breaking logjams that prevent vulnerable people from accessing the services they need, co-ordinating public consultation on health issues across agencies, or attracting greater resources for public health and the prevention of ill health. The powers of overview and scrutiny of the NHS enable committees to review any matter relating to the planning, provision and operation of health services in the area of its local authority.

The Guidance is published by the Department of Health and available at: http://www.doh.gov.uk/involvingpatients/oshguidance.pdf