MPs have raised the prospect of changes to the way standards of healthcare in the private and independent sector are monitored, and complaints investigated.

The health select committee has established an inquiry to 'examine the adequacy and extent of regulation, monitoring and inspection of healthcare outside the NHS'. It will also take evidence on complaints procedures in this area.

The announcement has galvanised lobbyists into calling on MPs who were successful in the recent private member's ballot to adopt a bill to extend the remit of the health service commissioner to include the independent sector.

Consumers' Association director Sheila McKechnie said a private member's bill 'would go a long way to ensuring improvements in patients' rights in areas as diverse as private hospitals to dentists and walk-in clinics'.

Royal College of Nursing general secretary Christine Hancock said the health committee inquiry would 'make some headway' in protecting the public from the poor practice that exists in some independent healthcare organisations.

The MPs who were successful in the private member's bill ballot have to register their proposed bill by 13 January.

Written memoranda to the health committee must be submitted by 15 January.