Final preparations for CHAI launch event

What is CHAI exactly? The Commission for Healthcare Audit and Inspection, a new body set up to inspect, audit and come up with ways of improving healthcare in the NHS and private sector in England and Wales.

It opens for business on 1 April. As well as publishing annual performance ratings for all NHS organisations, CHAI is billing itself as a sort of central databank on health issues. It wants to be ‘a trusted and authoritative source of information about healthcare for patients and the public’.

So it means that PROs will have a new information resource on healthcare?

More than that. CHAI will use what it calls ‘intelligent information’ to drive its assessments, which means it is open to views on a range of issues affecting the delivery of care.

Is that what CHAI itself is saying?

Certainly is. A spokeswoman told PRWeek: ‘The patient is at the heart of everything we do. PR people have an important role to play in bringing information to CHAI – that is central to our role.’ Ensuring value for money for patient care is a key plank of the organisation’s remit.

What is CHAI replacing?

It will take on everything done by the Commission for Health Improvement and the Mental Health Act Commission, plus the NHS-related work of the Audit Commission and the independent healthcare work of the National Care Standards Commission. The thinking is that PCTs and other NHS services have been overburdened by requests for data from the various bodies involved in health regulation. By bringing these together, that burden should be reduced. CHAI will also act as a referee for NHS patients: if people are unhappy with the way their complaints are handled by a hospital, for example, they can appeal to CHAI.

So that means CHAI is independent?

The Government ultimately decides its remit, but the phrase everyone’s using is ‘at arm’s length’ from the powers that be. CHAI’s reports will stand or fall on their credibility. Its vision is to give rigorous, fair and accurate information to patients, the public and workers in healthcare.

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