Headlines: June 27th, 2006

Local councils, schools, NHS trusts and the police will be able to encourage their inspecting bodies to keep away by getting a new style ‘charter mark’. If proposals are accepted from an independent review, public bodies will be able to secure a seal of quality by demonstrating a commitment to continual improvement and evidence of customer satisfaction.The ‘charter mark’ scheme was introduced 14 years ago and the review found that although organisations that had received the award performed better than others, it carried little prestige and was not widely used across the public sector.

The aim of the proposals is to devise the premier scheme to help public bodies to deliver customer excellence. It would consist of a quality improvement tool combined with the introduction of a framework for more rigorous measurement of customer satisfaction. ‘Charter mark’ would be re-branded and the logo replaced. No suggestion has been made for the new brand name.

Factors which allow customer satisfaction to be measured would be decided locally, but there would be a framework of core questions in customer surveys. This would allow comparisons to be made within sectors. The core questions include whether the service delivers the outcomes it promised and manages to deal with any problems that may arise.

There would also be questions on timely delivery, information and staff competence and attitude.

A major incentive in promoting the scheme across the public sector would be a reduced burden of inspection. The new seal of quality would significantly influence inspecting bodies who now devise inspection programmes on a risk profiled basis.

The review report is available at: http://www.cabinetoffice.gov.uk/publications/reports/chartermark/cm_review.pdf