Audit Commission will have to strive harder to maintain its credibility

An intriguing aspect of the intense performance-management culture under Labour has been that the role of a major national body created to aid the very task of managing performance has looked increasingly unsure - at least in the NHS.

For the Audit Commission - launched 17 years ago with a remit covering local government, which was extended to the health service in 1990 - has seen other mechanisms with startlingly similar purposes spring up. Is it doomed to duplicate their work, echoing their calls for improvement in reports destined to be ignored after a brief flurry of publicity - something at which the commission has always excelled?

A new era may be dawning with the publication of the commission's strategy for the next three years. It is a timely overhaul to match the organisation more closely to today's environment. But NHS managers are by now connoisseurs of inspection, and the commission will have to strive harder than ever to maintain its credibility.