Headlines: October 31st, 2003

Local councils are to get more support to help their overview and scrutiny committees to carry out their reviews of health services. It will include a one off payment of two-and-a-quarter million pounds to develop ways to assist local authorities in their new health scrutiny role.The Health Minister, Rosie Winterton said the payment was being made to the Centre for Public Scrutiny, which jointly with the Local Government Association, will aid the long-term development of health overview and scrutiny committees.

This will be done through developing rigorous monitoring and evaluation, to support learning from experience, and to develop more effective ways of working and better health outcomes as well as the development of good practice. At the same time work will be done on the identification and spread of work that has led to health improvements and through piloting, facilitation and support including publications and guidance.

A new steering group will be set up to manage these arrangements and will include stakeholders from both the NHS and local government. New guidance has also been made available to help councillors and scrutiny officers get to grips with the NHS in their area. It is available on the Department of Health website at: www.doh.gov.uk/involvingpatients/guidance.htm

Rosie Winterton said scrutiny by local authority overview and scrutiny committees would enable local people to have more democratic control of their healthcare. Local authorities had a fundamental role to play as community leaders, promoting and ensuring the well-being of local people.