Committee of Public Accounts: Press Notice

Committee of Public Accounts recommendations on public services accepted by Government

Recent reports by the Committee of Public Accounts (PAC) have led the Government to make a number of significant improvements to public service delivery.

Edward Leigh, Chairman of the Committee, today said:

"The Department for International Development is asking its professional staff in developing countries to spend more time in rural areas to make sure that they understand the needs of the rural poor.

"The Department of Health accepts that the NHS could save more than £200 million each year through more efficient prescribing of medicines, and that at least another £100 million of medicines are wasted every year. The Department has also accepted the Committee's recommendation that it needs to get a grip on the scale of and reasons for waste to ensure that savings are made.

"We highlighted very poor departmental performance against environmental standards for construction projects. I am pleased the Government has broadly accepted all our recommendations. But it remains to be seen how far the new initiatives now in place will improve both monitoring and performance and whether the Government will stand by its commitment to mandatory standards.

"With the dangerous and destructive floods in large parts of the country last year, the Environment Agency has accepted the need to enhance its understanding of the risk and adequacy of its flood defence assets, and to develop a prioritised plan to improve asset condition.

"The Department has accepted the Committee's conclusions on the scale and challenges posed by dementia and that this will be a problem of growing significance in coming years. I am extremely pleased that the Government has now identified dementia as a national health priority and is developing a National Dementia Strategy and Implementation Plan, to ensure that this last great taboo subject is given the same priority as cancer and coronary heart disease."

The Government was responding to the following reports by the Committee of Public Accounts:

DFID: Tackling rural poverty in developing countries (1st report)

The Government accepts the Committee's conclusions that the needs of the rural poor must be recognised in DFID's programmes and that it would be impossible to achieve the Millennium Development Goals without reducing rural poverty. In response to the Committee's specific concerns DFID is working to increase its knowledge of the effects of its aid on patterns of migration. It is also improving its own processes and systems for disseminating existing research, for carrying out better cost analysis and for reviewing whether projects continue to benefit the rural poor after completion. To ensure that its staff have sufficient understanding of rural development priorities, DFID professional staff will increase the amount of time spent in rural areas each year.

Prescribing costs in primary care (2nd report)

The Department of Health accepted the Committee's conclusion that the NHS could save more than £200 million a year, without affecting patient care, by GPs prescribing lower cost but equally effective medicines. It is now considering introducing further prescribing indicators to complement its existing indicator for the prescription of statins, to help GP practices identify how they could free up resources by more efficient prescribing. The Department also accepts that it does not have robust or up-to-date information on the costs of drugs wastage€”estimated to be at least £100 million a year€”or a good understanding of the varied and complex reasons why patients do not always use their drugs. In accordance with the Committee's recommendation, it is commissioning a major piece of research on drugs wastage, to inform the development of practical measures at local and national level to help reduce waste.

Building for the Future: sustainable construction and refurbishment on the government estate (3rd report)

The Government is creating a Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Procurement (CESP) within OGC in order to drive up standards and improve departmental performance. It will also implement stronger enforcement of environmental standards for construction projects and ensure that these are mandatory, as well as identify appropriate methodologies for smaller scale projects. OGC will develop this year Key Performance Indicators for sustainability in a number of collaborative procurement areas. Permanent secretaries will also objectives relating to their department's performance against environmental targets.

All the recommendations in the report have been broadly accepted by the Government.

Building and maintaining river and coastal flood defences in England (4th report)

The Environment Agency has accepted that the cost effectiveness of its flood defence funding could be enhanced by developing a risk based approach to prioritise funding and maintenance expenditure towards high risk flood defence systems which protect major population areas, and by reducing the proportion of funding spent on programme and project development within its capital programme.

Improving services and support for people with dementia (6th report)

The Department of Health accepts the recommendations in the PAC's report - Improving services and support for people with dementia - and acknowledges there are many areas of underperformance in relation to dementia care. The Department is developing a National Dementia Strategy to consider: how to improve the poor diagnosis rate, which currently stands at only one third to a half of people receiving a formal diagnosis; a public awareness campaign, to develop better understanding of dementia by public and professionals alike and to tackle stigma and misunderstandings around dementia; provision of a single point of contact for families to improve co-ordination of care between the various services and professionals; improvements in the poor number of carers receiving carer's assessments to which they are entitled; improvements in staff training and the quality of care delivered for people with dementia in care homes and in acute and general hospitals. The Strategy and Implementation Plan will be published in October 2008 following a public consultation.

Notes to Editors

1. This information is contained in Treasury Minutes presented to Parliament in March 2008 by the Financial Secretary to the Treasury on the following six reports: 1st report DFID: tackling rural poverty in developing countries; 2nd report Prescribing costs in primary care; 3rd report Building for the future: sustainable construction and refurbishment on the Government estate; 4th report Building and maintaining river and coastal flood defences in England; 5th report Evasion of vehicle excise duty; 6th report Improving services and support for people with dementia

2. For a list of all the recommendations and responses, go to