The controversial scheme that led to the closure of Edgware General Hospital's accident and emergency department is to come under scrutiny by the National Audit Office.

In 1998, a report by Finnamore Management Consultants, commissioned by Barnet health authority and Wellhouse trust, found that promised savings of£4.2m had turned out to be just£100,000.

This week the NAO announced plans to explore the 'issues. . . raised about the Barnet service change programme' in the Finnamore report, to examine their 'implications for improved handling of such change programmes in the future'.

The development is the latest twist in a long battle by former Barnet community health council chair Elizabeth Manero to hold the HA to account over 'its performance against its own promises'.

Now chair of London Health Link, a pan-London group of CHCs, Ms Manero described the announcement as a 'victory' which 'has been very difficult to achieve'.

She cited the CHC's difficulties in persuading the HA first to commission the Finnamore report and later to release its figures.

Ms Manero said she hoped the NAO could establish whether guidance covering such schemes was inadequate, or whether the fault at Barnet lay in failures to follow guidance properly.

She told H S J : 'There are other issues, too - how to ensure that the people let loose on these schemes actually have the skills to manage them, for one.'

James Robertson, NAO director of health value for money, said the review would 'explore the completeness of the lessons identified (in the Finnamore report) . . . and how far they reflect any need to improve existing rules or guidance on handling change programmes'.

London Health Emergency campaigner Geoff Martin demanded the resignation of 'all the managers involved in this fiasco'. He urged the NAO to 'shine its light into the dark corners of the NHS'.

'I would like them to take a look at all these schemes kicking around on the basis of entirely phoney figures and revenue savings which are never realised.'

Barnet HA said it was 'looking forward to working with the NAO, as any conclusions from this exercise will benefit all those who will be looking to participate in future change'.