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Expert panel: an innovative approach to evaluating government policy commitments in health and social care
  1. Alison Jane Lacey1,
  2. Florence Lily Young2,
  3. Stephen Peckham3,
  4. Jane Dacre4
  1. 1 School of Psychology, University of Sussex, Brighton, UK
  2. 2 MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, UK
  3. 3 Centre for Health Service Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury, UK
  4. 4 Medical School, University College London, London, UK
  1. Correspondence to Professor Jane Dacre, Medical School, University College London, London WC1E 6BT, UK; j.dacre{at}

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What are the new findings?

  • Government healthcare commitments have not previously been subject to a formal system of independent scrutiny.

  • This paper describes the establishment of the Health and Social Care Expert Panel, commissioned to evaluate government progress against its own healthcare commitments using systematic and robust research methods.

How might it impact on healthcare in the future?

  • The Panel’s work has the potential to have a major impact on healthcare policy improvements by assessing whether government commitments are adequately funded, fully implemented, and in the best interest of patients.


Health and Social Care services make essential contributions to society, and it is vital that NHS England and NHS Improvement (NHSE&I) and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) respond dynamically to meet the needs of a changing population. Although the precise structural relationships between the government and the NHS changes every few years, successive governments make policy commitments and the NHS, and its associated bodies, work towards implementing those commitments. Improved assessment of the process by which commitments are made and implemented provides essential feedback between the DHSC and NHSE&I leadership to ensure commitments are appropriately resourced, feasible, and in the best interests of patients. Here, we describe the role and impact of the Expert Panel, an innovative method of government scrutiny that aims to strengthen and complement the work of the Health and Social Care Select Committee (HSCSC).

The role of select committees

Policy scrutiny is a core function of Parliament and is typically undertaken through oral questions, debate and through the investigative work of select committees.1 2 Select committees are made up of a group of cross-party MPs and can appoint Specialist Advisors to assist their work.

The HSCSC scrutinises health and social care policy and the work of the DHSC. It fulfils this role through a programme of work, including public inquiries and the publication of reports, which include recommendations to which the …

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  • AJL and FLY are joint first authors.

  • Twitter @AlisonJLacey

  • Contributors AJL and FLY contributed equally to this paper (joint first authors). AJL and FLY provided research advice and support to the expert panel during the evaluation of maternity services, and adapted the framework method of qualitative data for use in a policy setting. All authors contributed to the writing of this manuscript. JD is the chair of the expert panel and led the maternity review described. SP is one of the panel’s core members.

  • Funding The authors have not declared a specific grant for this research from any funding agency in the public, commercial or not-for-profit sectors.

  • Competing interests JD is the chair of the expert panel; SP is a core member of the expert panel.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.