A new regulator with powers to fine hospitals and shut down wards will be created under legislation set out today in Gordon Brown's first Queen's Speech.
The Care Quality Commission will bring together the functions of the existing Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection and the Mental Health Act Commission.
It will also be equipped with a stronger remit to "inspect, investigate and intervene" where hospitals are failing to meet hygiene standards.
The integrated regulator, to be set up under a forthcoming Health and Social Care Bill, will cover adult social care as well as health services.
The Bill will also seek to strengthen professional regulation, fulfilling a manifesto commitment in the wake of the inquiry into the Harold Shipman murders.
Regulatory bodies will be required to use the lower, civil standard of proof and healthcare organisations made to appoint a "responsible officer" to work with the General Medical Council on cases of poor professional performance by doctors.Reuse content