Top of the Commission for Health Improvement's agenda is cancer care. A joint inquiry with the Audit Commission is scheduled for next year, working closely with the government's newly appointed cancer 'czar' Professor Mike Richards.

It will examine whether trusts' cancer services meet the national standards laid down in the Calman-Hine report - co-authored by CHI's chair, Dame Deirdre Hine.

The report called for cancer services to be led by hospitals approved as 'designated units'. But NHS Confederation chief executive Stephen Thornton said the quality of cancer care was 'as much about financial investment as managerial efficiency' yet there was 'no new money for cancer'.