NHS trust heads may face MPs' scrutiny

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Indy Politics
NHS CHIEF executives could find themselves summoned to Westminster and publicly grilled by one of Parliament's most powerful committees if health service cash goes astray or is misused.

The move is being considered by ministers in an attempt to make the new-style NHS more accountable. At present only the Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health and chief executive of the NHS are designated as 'accounting officers', which, when things go wrong, can lead to the embarrassment, even humiliation, of being cross-questioned by MPs on the Commons Public Accounts Committee.

In future, chief executives of health authorities and trusts may be given formal accounting officer status to underline that the new-style NHS does remain accountable.

Alan Langlands, chief executive-designate of the health service, told a conference of health authority executives this week that 'as responsibility is increasingly devolved to local level, it may be desirable that this should be reflected in the formal accountability arrangements'.

Department of Health sources say that the move is not connected to recent financial scandals in the West Midlands and Wessex regional health authorities. However, it is bound to be seen against that background.

Making GP fund-holders accounting officers has been ruled out on numbers grounds. The Treasury is understood to favour NHS Trust chief executives becoming accounting officers, while the department believes the requirement should extend only to those heading the health authorities, who actually purchase NHS care.

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