The NHS in Wales has preempted the government's response to the Kennedy report on Bristol Royal Infirmary by calling on all managers to adhere to a new regulatory code of conduct.

Since the Kennedy report came out in July, calling for managers to be subject to the same sort of regulation as other professional groups, the Institute of Health-care Management, which drew up the code, has seen its profile rise.

At its annual conference last month, members agreed that the adoption of the code would be a condition of IHM membership.

And director of the NHS in Wales Ann Lloyd told a workshop that she would discuss with trust chief executives whether to ask all managers to sign up to the code - whether or not they were IHM members.

At a meeting two weeks ago, Welsh chief executives unanimously agreed to the policy. At this stage the service could only request compliance with the code, though the government's response to Kennedy is likely to back his calls for some sort of mandatory regulation across England and Wales.

IHM deputy chief executive Rosey Foster said: 'We have been working towards this for some eight years, so we are very happy that it has been taken on by the NHS in Wales.'

She hoped the code would allow managers to 'blow the whistle' on so-called pockets of bad practice.

But she stressed that the code would be developed further over coming years. 'It is just a first step and there will be changes and development as the years go on.

'We hope it will help give patients confidence in the work that NHS managers do.'

She said the adoption of the code by the IHM, and its boosted position in Wales, would 'signal to the public that the institute's members wish to redress the perception that there is some poor management in the health sector'.

Based on five broad principles - integrity, honesty, probity, accountability and respect - the code was launched at the IHM conference in Belfast, where delegates voted overwhelmingly to make its acceptance a condition of membership to the organisation.

It also has a continuing professional development (CPD) element which requires members to remain abreast of best practice.

It could mean shadowing, mentoring, secondment and voluntary work.

For IHM members, failure to adhere to the code could see members being excluded. Other procedures to censure members could see their membership being downgraded to associate level, if, for example, CPD requirements were not maintained.

But the IHM has stressed that 'the code is about development, not punishment' and such measures would only be used 'as a last resort'.

Members are expected to renew their commitment to the code and to CPD requirements annually.

The adoption of a code of conduct and a focus on CPD has been a long-time enthusiasm of IHM chief executive Stuart Marples.

Members joining IHM or renewing their membership from January will be required to sign up to the compulsory code.