NHS Confederation calls for strong accountability in the NHS

Leadership in Health Services

ISSN: 1751-1879

Article publication date: 2 May 2008




(2008), "NHS Confederation calls for strong accountability in the NHS", Leadership in Health Services, Vol. 21 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/lhs.2008.21121bab.004



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2008, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

NHS Confederation calls for strong accountability in the NHS

Article Type: News and views From: Leadership in Health Services, Volume 21, Issue 2.

Keywords: Corporate governance, Decision making, Public involvement

The NHS wants and needs to be more accountable to patients and the public, says the NHS Confederation in a report launched today “Principles for accountability: putting the public at the heart of the NHS”. The NHS Confederation, through its Primary Care Trust Network, has explored ways forward to improve the local accountability of primary care trusts, through a consultation with its members and a seminar of leading experts.

Greater accountability can be achieved by:

  • strengthening existing structures, in particular, health overview and scrutiny committees in local government;

  • more deliberative events to promote further public involvement in primary care trust decision making;

  • greater transparency and information for the public about how decisions are made; and

  • building better relationships and more information sharing between local government and primary care trusts.

Gill Morgan, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, commented: “The NHS Confederation has long advocated for improvements in local accountability. However, there is a cross-party consensus against further structural change in the NHS, and the public are sceptical about political involvement in the NHS. This report demonstrates a real commitment from NHS managers to strengthen the transparency of decision making in the NHS and to consider ways forward. The success of PCTs rests on them focussing more on patient and public engagement … ”

The latest Healthcare Commission Annual Health Check showed that PCTs that have been reorganised do not always perform as well as the rest of the NHS. Further structural change will not benefit patient care or improve accountability arrangements.

While PCTs are already accountable to the public nationally through the secretary of state, to parliament through regulators and locally through local government, more must be done to increase understanding and legitimacy of trusts and their actions.

The NHS Confederation has outlined some clear principles for local accountability arrangements, intended to enable strong governance and decision making which involves local people.

These systems should be:

  • clear, accessible and transparent a core part of any local system;

  • inclusive avoid sectional interest and take into account a wide range of views;

  • responsive react to the concerns of local people and show how these have been considered and addressed;

  • sustainable build relationships over a period of time to build trust on a personal and organisational level;

  • pro-active a comprehensive approach to engagement and consultation;

  • able to deliver difficult decisions this includes decisions around which services and treatments are funded; the public must be assured that their concerns will be acted upon as quickly as possible;

  • cost effective investment or resources must be in line with patient benefit and bureaucracy avoided; and

  • able to promote a reduction in health inequalities while remaining inclusive, systems should demonstrate that health inequalities are being reduced, supporting the aim of the NHS to improve public health.

A MORI poll conducted on behalf of the NHS Confederation shows that the vast majority of the public do not want MPs and local councillors to take decisions about which treatments are funded by the local NHS. Some seventy per cent believed that clinicians working in the local NHS should do this, with 33 per cent favouring patient representatives and 23 per cent local NHS managers. Only nine per cent think MPs should be part of the decision making process and only six per cent think councillors should have a say.

For further information: www.nhsconfed.org/i

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