Published: 13/05/2004, Volume II4, No. 5905 Page 12

Key developments in the world of inspection and scrutiny across health and social care

The Healthcare Commission has opened a three-month consultation on a draft code of practice governing how it will obtain and use personal information that identifies patients, staff and others.

Under the Health and Social Care Act 2003, the commission can enter and inspect premises and obtain information it needs to carry out its functions.The code of practice says that, where possible, the commission should do this with the prior consent of those to whom the information refers. It also proposes that a committee be set up to vet proposals to obtain personal information identifying individuals.Commission chair Professor Sir Ian Kennedy said that in cases of child protection, for example, consent might not be sought.

A fast-track review of Cheshire and Wirral Partnerships trust, requested following concerns about clinical care and other issues for older people with dementia on Jarman Ward in 2001, has established that the issues have now been resolved.The Healthcare Commission review followed a complaint - accepted by the trust - that the care received by Harry Longden in the weeks before his death at home fell below the standard he could have expected.The commission said the problems had now been overcome and praised staff for their caring approach and commitment to service users.However, it expressed concern that a number of areas needed more work, including inappropriate patient mix, inequity of access to some services and effective use of information. It called for an immediate review of all aspects of the trust's care programme approach.

The commission has published reports on Salford primary care trust and Bolton, Salford and Trafford Mental Health trust.The PCT is praised for being 'outward looking and prepared to try new and innovative ways of working to improve the health of its local population'.The report also flags up the close relations between the PCT and other agencies, such as the local education authority, with which it works to provide an integrated health clinic at a special school.But it criticises the security of the PCT's premises and calls for urgent action to ensure safety of staff.The report on the mental health trust salutes the way the organisation involves service users in services, but warns the trust to take urgent action to eliminate all ligature points from which patients could harm themselves.

The commission has also published its monthly bulletin rounding up developments from the new organisation. It sets out the commission's response to the Commons health select committee's report on abuse of older people, which says it will review the care of older people and seek their views.To be added to the bulletin's distribution list, e-mail healthcare. news@healthcarecommission. org. uk