Scotland is to have a 'super scrutiny' body, merging three organisations into one as part of the Scottish government's cull on quangos.

Finance secretary John Swinney said a new health scrutiny body would take over the functions of NHS Quality Improvement Scotland, the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland and the private healthcare inspection currently undertaken by the Care Commission.

There will also be a single body to scrutinise care and social work.

In practice, it is expected that NHS Quality Improvement will take on the functions of the other two bodies in addition to its own, although the detail has not yet been worked out. It is not yet clear how independent the new body will be.

Greater co-ordination

Many health service managers support the move, believing it will mean a more co-ordinated approach to inspections and scrutiny.

Catriona Renfrew, director of corporate planning and policy at NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, said it was "a good thing in beginning to clear a landscape cluttered with inspection and regulation".

But she added: "There are big challenges in bringing together organisations with very different scrutiny roles and responsibilities, from individual patient to health facilities to policies and strategies, into a single, coherent new organisation."

Mental health campaigners have particular concerns. Scottish Association for Mental Health chief executive Billy Watson praised the Mental Welfare Commission's "considerable achievements" in providing safeguards for vulnerable people.

Careful progress

"The merger must proceed with great care to ensure that the unique role of the Mental Welfare Commission is not diluted in any way," he said.

The commission said it would be working with government "to ensure that safeguards are retained and strengthened" under the proposed arrangements.

"Health services, social care services and the government must be open to independent challenge and scrutiny, especially when it comes to the care of individuals who often have no voice," a spokesperson said.

NHS Quality Improvement Scotland chief executive David Steel said the organisation already worked with the Care Commission and Mental Welfare Commission.

"The Scottish government's announcement is an opportunity to build on the rich experience and depth of knowledge that we have, and to strengthen co-ordination," he said.