The annual healthcheck is leading to stress, frustration and to other work being delayed, an independent study has found.

Managers in 2005-06 spent 'hundreds of hours' on the Healthcare Commission's core standards assessments, which are a 'drain on the goodwill of staff', a report by Matrix Research and Consultancy with York Health Economics Consortium reveals.

In response, Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker made a connection between trusts that struggle with the healthcheck and those with weak governance.

'It's striking how boards with good corporate governance in place - around a third of trusts - found it less of a burden than others,' she said.

'Of course, asking a board whether it's complying with certain standards will always take some time.'

Benefits of assessment

The research reveals that despite the difficulties, the majority of trusts think the benefits of the process outweigh the costs.

Ms Walker said: 'There's no doubt that our processes needed refining and we're always willing to listen to trusts' feedback.'

In the study, 60 per cent of trusts thought the new assessment took more time than the star-ratings system it replaced in 2005. In 69 per cent, staff had to work extra hours, the majority unpaid.

The report says: 'This has a negative impact on other workstreams and priorities and also on staff well-being as a result of stress, frustration, and loss of work-life balance.'

The 2004 concordat, signed by 10 organisations in an attempt to streamline regulation, is not working, the report concludes.

But Ms Walker was adamant that the commission is 'doing more than its part' to meet the concordat's pledge.

Click here to read the report