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Are public inquiries losing their independence?

BMJ 2005; 331 doi: (Published 07 July 2005) Cite this as: BMJ 2005;331:117
  1. Kieran Walshe, professor of health policy and management and director (
  1. Centre for Public Policy and Management, Manchester Business School

    Public inquiries have played an important part in the NHS in recent years. Several major failures in our healthcare services have been subjected to independent, public investigations, and the reports from those inquiries have had a wide ranging impact on health policy (Health Affairs 2004;23(3): 103-11 and BMJ 2002;325: 895-900). Just before the UK elections in May 2005, the Inquiries Act 2005 slipped almost unnoticed on to the statute book. The government presented the act as primarily an exercise in legislative housekeeping—replacing the outdated Tribunals of Inquiry (Evidence) Act of 1921 and provisions for inquiries in various sector specific legislation like the NHS Act 1977, with a single, clear, and coherent set of provisions for establishing and undertaking public inquiries.

    The new Inquiries Act gives government ministers unprecedented powers

    In …

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