THIS WEEK

The Health Technology Board for Scotland (HTBS), set up less than two years ago, could face the axe in a shake-up which has been dubbed the bonfire of the quangos.

The Scottish equivalent of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence is one of a number of organisations under review as part of a wide-ranging cull of public bodies.

Others which look likely to go in their current form or to be merged into a new clinical effectiveness-style special health board include the Clinical Standards Board for Scotland, the Scottish Health Advisory Service, the Clinical Research and Audit Group and the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN).

HSJ understands that Scottish health minister Susan Deacon, her recently appointed chief medical officer, Dr Mac Armstrong, and the chief executive of NHS Scotland, Trevor Jones, want the clinical effectiveness machine to become more streamlined.

This is in line with the move towards unification in general - trusts and existing health boards are due to be merged into unified health boards later this year.

But it also signals a frustration with the slow pace of change and what some have called a 'lack of being connected'with the agenda of NHS Scotland.

The Scottish Executive is understood to want groups such as SIGN and HTBS to refocus on the government's clinical priorities rather than go with the 'enthusiasms' of individuals.

There is also concern with HTBS in particular that it could be duplicating the work of NICE, though on a much smaller scale.

Senior figures within the service have expressed concern that the body has taken too much time to set up.

One source said there was also a feeling that ambitions to end postcode prescribing and views on other clinical effectiveness issues did not change radically at the border.

An HTBS spokeswoman said the results of the review were expected in two months. She said: 'We are quite relaxed about it because we do not think the need for health technology assessment is being questioned - It is more a question of how it is done and we are not complacent. '