Healthcare Commission chief executive Anna Walker has voiced concerns that the NHS's new super-regulator may be given too narrow a remit.

Ms Walker insisted Ofcare, set to swallow up the Healthcare Commission in April 2009, must have the power to regulate and assess NHS organisations on health and health inequalities as well as healthcare.

Ms Walker told HSJ: 'There has been some concern about whether this has been thought about sufficiently clearly and rationally.

'We want people to concentrate on health and healthcare and we want healthcare organisations to do it because primary care trusts and hospitals can do a huge amount in terms of the advice they give to people at critical stages.'

Ms Walker said there was a risk that Ofcare's remit would not cover measuring progress on health inequalities.

She said: 'People who look after healthcare are really important in looking after health. Although regulation is not the only player in this it is a very useful lever to improve public health.'

The DoH is consulting on plans for the new regulator and is expected to publish a statement on the broad aims of the organisations later this month.

HSJ understands the government will then consult further over the autumn and winter on the detail of what Ofcare will look like.

Ofcare will replace the Healthcare Commission, the Commission for Social Care Inspection, and the Mental Health Act Commission.

Faculty of Public Health president Dr Alan Maryon-Davis agreed with Ms Walker on the importance of the regulator having a public health role. 'As the three organisations come together there is bound to be some downsizing and there is a risk that some elements will be diluted,' Dr Maryon-Davis said.

'We are worried that as public health is often the most vulnerable it is often the easiest thing to cut back on.'

In June HSJ revealed that the new regulator will be given the power to close down or fine underperforming trusts (see news, page 5, 7 June).

A draft of the DoH's latest plans for Ofcare - short for the Office of Health and Adult Social Care - said the new regulator will be responsible for quality and safety.

It would also have the power to instigate a statutory warning notice demanding improvements, a formal caution, a temporary suspension of mandatory Ofcare registration, conditions restricting what can be provided or criminal prosecution.

The DoH declined to comment when contacted by HSJ.