Though firmly under the umbrella of the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, and largely funded by it, the National Confidential Enquiry into Perioperative Deaths is, in fact, an independent charity backed by a range of royal colleges and other organisations.

Over the past decade or so, the organisation has built considerable credibility with its work on the quality of surgical care, and is clearly a forerunner of much of the clinical governance/quality agenda now pursued by the government.

Of course, you don't get league tables of good and bad surgeons here. But what you do get is a wealth of material drawn from NCEPOD's reports, and the numerous recommendations its peer reviewers have come up with down the years. You won't find full-text reports here, but you do get summaries.

The next big thing on the NCEPOD agenda - apart from the appointment of a new chief executive - is a series of reports due out on 21 November. Alongside its annual report - which will include a major comparison of perioperative deaths in 1990 and 2000 - will be reports on vascular surgery and coronary angioplasty.

Following a review of the four confidential enquiries earlier this year for NICE, NCEPOD is now looking at potential new areas of investigation - including primary care and day-case surgery, risk management and data collection - as well as the potential for closer collaboration with its sister-organisations.

So far, only one of these - the Confidential Enquiry into Stillbirths and Deaths in Infancy - appears to have a website, and the content is strictly limited, although it does carry the interim results of an investigation of the care given to pre-term children born in weeks 27 and 28 of gestation, at which stage 80 per cent survive. The aim is to identify why 20 per cent do not, and what can be done to improve their chances.