Headlines: September 27th, 2000

The increasing use of inspection to drive up performance of public services has led to an alliance of organisation in the health service and local government to call for a rethink of the inspection role. The Institute for Public Policy Research, the NHS Confederation, the Local Government Association and the Improvement and Development Association believe that inspection can play a more effective role in the Government’s proposals for public sector reform, but a culture change is needed for this to happen.The issue has become important because the inspection business is expanding rapidly. The Best Value inspection of local government was introduced recently and the NHS Plan proposes a comprehensive inspection regime for the health service.

The weakness of the current approach to inspection is that the focus is on past performance, it highlights areas of poor performance and the emphasis is on criticism. This culture of seeking out practices or performance which fall below a minimum standard provides little benefit for the majority of organisations which meet the standards. The challenge now is to move the focus of inspection towards continuous improvement so that the emphasis is on stimulating innovation and finding better ways of doing things. The call is for less ‘naming and shaming’ and more ‘naming and acclaiming’.

The discussion paper is available at www.lga.gov.uk   and comments should go to Matthew Warburton, Local Government House, Smith Square, London SW1P3H