Headlines: May 22nd, 2006

The Centre for Public Scrutiny has awarded a further nine councils 20,000 pounds to carry out innovative action learning projects in the field of health scrutiny. The projects will be test beds to evaluate the health scrutiny processes and lessons learned will be shared with councils across the country. This is the third and final of three rounds of Action Learning awards made by the Centre as part of their three-year Health Scrutiny Support Programme designed to increase capacity as non-executive members to develop their powers to scrutinise health and healthcare.The projects include care management for older people, building healthy urban environments, community development in health and well-being, primary care for people with profound and multiple learning difficulties and men’s health.

The University of Manchester was commissioned to conduct a three-year evaluative study of health scrutiny in September 2004. The evaluation will seek a better understanding of the impact of health scrutiny on organisations and communities and assess the range of methods, processes and approaches being used in health scrutiny.

Research by the Centre has shown that as well as conducting service specific reviews such as dentistry, chiropody or mental health services the trend is now for scrutiny committees to conduct broader cross-cutting reviews, including obesity, teenage pregnancy, diabetes and healthy lifestyles.

Scrutiny activity is resulting in better dialogue and relations with local NHS bodies and fears that it could potentially damage relationships has not generally materialised. There has also been an improvement in joined-up partnership working. NHS bodies believe that challenge and external checks of health scrutiny has been helpful and resulted in changed policy, services or procedures.