Audit Commission study on how NHS boards get their assurance

The Audit Commision is undertaking a new study looking at the rigour of NHS board assurance frameworks, specifically how boards assure themselves about the strength and completeness of their internal controls to support the accounting officer’s statement on internal control (SIC) and therefore the reliability and accuracy of their self assessment and self certifications for regulatory purposes. 

The Audit Commission will be working with Monitor on the study and therefore will focus on NHS trusts and foundation trusts. The study will focus on the evidence provided to boards to enable them to make their core standards declarations and for the accounting officer to sign the SIC. The study will therefore review how key risks are identified and managed and whether key systems and processes support the measurement and mitigation of those risks.

The Audit Commission will be looking at internal audit plans and whether they include appropriate resources and the necessary skills to focus on the key risks identified. They also plan to review the information reported to the board, the audit committee and the accounting officer and how they respond to the information provided, including whether there is appropriate challenge to the information they receive.

At this stage the Audit Commission expects their recommendations to cover:

– an overview of the main areas boards should consider with regard to the assurance they require;
– the improvements which boards should themselves make;
– of internal audit and other external advice to provide assurance;
– what, if any, changes should be made to the regulatory system in order to encourage improved assurance;
– what, if any, changes are needed to the Department’s NHS Internal Audit Standards and the guidance provided to audit committees; and
– what changes should be made to provide better assurance on data quality, including changes to be implemented in 2008/09.

The research will be taking place over the summer and the report will be published in autumn 2008. For further information about the study, contact Emma Knowles on 0844 798 2747 or e-knowles@audit-commission.gov.uk

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