No improvement notices have been issued yet. The Health Act 2006 gave the Healthcare Commission the power to issue improvement notices if it considers that a national health service organisation is not observing the provisions of the Code of Practice in any material respect. The Act, however, includes various other matters that the commission needs to take into account before this power is exercised. The commission is currently reviewing the arrangements in all 41 trusts whose annual health check and rating published in October 2006 gave rise to concern with respect to health care associated infection. This programme will be completed by the end of March. The commission has assured me that if this work reveals evidence of any material failures to observe the provision of the code the issue of formal improvement notices will be likely to follow.
In addition, trusts are being required to make a specific declaration by 1 May regarding their observance of the code as part of the next annual health check cycle. The Healthcare Commission will follow up these declarations as part of a programme to review the application of the code in trusts where there may be risks of inadequate performance. The issuing of improvement notices is an important power to help secure the safety of patients and the commission will use this new power when it is appropriate.