this week

Proposals which could increase the work of the Commission for Health Improvement and slim down the Audit Commission have sparked a 'turf war' in Whitehall.

Professor Ian Kennedy's report of the Bristol inquiry said that CHI and the National Institute for Clinical Excellence should no longer form part of the Department of Health but should instead report to a new Council for the Quality of Healthcare which would be answerable to Parliament.

But HSJ sources have suggested the government might resist giving the bodies this independence.

The report also lays out a far greater workload for CHI, which would be responsible for a new system of validation and revalidation for trusts, and calls for rationalisation of scrutiny over the NHS.

'The place and role of the Audit Commission is a specific example of the case for rationalisation. In terms of its role ensuring the proper stewardship of public finances, which is carried out through the commission's district audit service, we see no overlap with other bodies. . . But in terms ofits other role of helping those responsible for the NHS to achieve economy, efficiency and effectiveness, there is now a degree of overlap with the role and functions of CHI.'

One DoH insider said the recommendation for an increased remit for CHI and a 'reappraisal' of the future of this part of the Audit Commission's work was sparking an enormous row.

'It will cause a huge turf war in Whitehall - there are already cries of anguish, ' he added.

CHI director Dr Peter Homa said: 'We will be working with the government to look at the implications - taken together it could mean a major enhancement of CHI's activities.'

In a statement, the Audit Commission said it was 'working closely with CHI to ensure that our respective functions in health are delivered as seamlessly as possible' and developing joint teams to carry out specific studies, monitor the implementation of national service frameworks and to validate and publish performance information.

It insisted that its experience and expertise 'means we have a valuable role in the NHS of the future'.