Headlines: June 24th, 2004

A series of measures to cut the bureaucratic burden on hospitals have been announced by the government. They will end the present situation which means that more than 30 bodies can judge hospital performance and even more can make inspection visits.The moves, announced by Health Minister Lord Warner, are designed to reduce red tape and free more time for dealing with patients. Once implemented they will see fewer, more consistent and better-prioritised recommendations from inspectorates and a better co-ordinated system for collecting data from NHS trusts. There will also be joint inspections by regulatory bodies to reduce the number of visits hospitals may face.

Other suggestions are that consideration be given to inspection ‘holidays’ for high-performing NHS Trusts and that schedules of visits should be published in advance to ensue staff can plan ahead to meet inspection requirements.

Ministers had asked the Healthcare Commission to develop an agreement with the main inspection, review and audit bodies to devise a programme for delivery setting out a new approach. Lord Warner said he wanted to free the NHS from inspection overload. The measures, he said, would mean staff spending less time ticking boxes and more time treating patients. “The burden often associated with these inspections – lack of co-ordination amongst different inspecting bodies, duplication of information collected and the sheer number of visits – has been a key complaint of NHS staff,” he added.

The new arrangements will be overseen by the Healthcare Commission. Its chief executive, Anna Walker, said it was highly significant that for the first time the main inspecting in healthcare had agreed to work to a set of objectives that would help reduce the burden on doctors and nurses providing frontline care.