An Investigative Review into the process of establishing, managing and supporting Independent Reviews in Scotland

An Investigative Review into the process of establishing, managing and supporting Independent Reviews in Scotland, with particular reference to the Independent Review of Transvaginal Mesh.


Chapter 1: Background and Process

1. We recommend that appropriate data on the frequency and nature of ‘Commissioning Inquiries, Reviews and Panels’ is collected, recorded and reported. This will help provide an understanding of the review process more generally and inform best practice for future reviews.

2. We recommend that a distinction is made between those which have been established within a statutory framework and those which have not. Including this detail on a website will inform the public understanding.

3. We recommend that there would be merit in setting up a dedicated unit to support commissioned reviews. This unit could provide a common knowledge base for both non-statutory and statutory reviews. It could keep records of previous reviews and collate data on their conclusions and outputs. It could provide guidance and templates for establishment of a review and for scoping terms of reference. These documents could be updated to reflect best practice and experience.

Chapter 2: The title, remit and terms of reference of a review.

4. We recommend that, where possible, the chair is involved in the decision of what the title of the review should be.

5. We recommend that material or key terms contained in a title should be explicitly defined and agreed by members.

6. We recommend that, if possible, the chair should be the principal author in the drafting of the remit.

7. We recommend that the interests and expertise of all members are considered when drafting and agreeing the remit.

8. We recommend that the rationale for the remit is clearly agreed.

9. We recommend that consideration should be given as to who sets the terms of reference. For example, this could be the chair or the commissioning Minister or a combination of both.

10. We recommend that all members of a review should have the opportunity to contribute to the development of the terms of reference.

11. We recommend that the Government consider providing a guide and template to drafting terms of reference. It should be generic in nature to meet the diversity of investigations.

12. We recommend that a period be set aside to consult on the terms of reference. This would enhance legitimacy, promote transparency, confidence and trust in the review process. We recognize that this must be offset against other possible limitations, for example, constraints on time.

Chapter 3: Independence and conflicts of interest/declarations of interest.

13. We recommend that the chair identifies areas that may have the potential to compromise the independence of the investigation. This is part of his or her overall duty to ensure an effective inquiry process and public confidence in the outcomes and recommendations.

14. We recommend applying a test of ‘impartiality’. This would allow someone with prior knowledge or involvement in the subject matter to be a potential member on the basis that their involvement was disclosed and evaluated.

15. We recommend that a process should be in place to identify and measure potential conflicts of interest to ensure that a proportionate response can be made.

16. We recommend that the chair has responsibility to lead the members of the review in discussion to consider possible conflicts of interest.

17. We recommend that the importance of transparency and accountability in the completion of Declaration of Interest should be explained as part of a general induction process.

Chapter 4: The selection/ appointment and responsibility of the chair.

18. We recommend that the appointment process to select the chair should be open and transparent.

19. We recommend that the commissioning party should ensure that the chair possesses skills specific to the nature of the inquiry. The commissioning party should also have a continuing responsibility to ensure that the chair promotes accountability and confidence in the inquiry process.

20. We recommend that support and some sort of induction, including background materials be given prior to undertaking the role. The former is especially important if the prospective chair is undertaking the role for the first time.

21. We recommend that a system of mentorships be established and a pool of those who have had experience chairing a Government review be available to draw upon to support a novice chair.

22. We recommend that potential appointees have no perceived conflict of interest which may raise doubts on impartiality and independence.

23. We recommend that the chair should be involved in the selection process of potential review members.

Chapter 5: Selection and composition of members of a review

24. We recommend that guidelines should be developed detailing the procedure which is required to establish an independent review. These guidelines should be in a form which can be modified and standardised over time. We believe that the more widely used they become, the more accepted they become.

25. We recommend that the process for the selection of members should be as independent of the subject or area under review, as possible.

26. We recommend that criteria should exist to determine the composition and balance of review members in relation to the subject matter under review.

27. We recommend that the chair should be the first appointment and that members should be either selected by the chair or in consultation or approved by the chair.

28. We recommend that the degree of external control of a review may also have to be considered within the – sometimes competing – interests of constraints on time and costs. The process for evaluation and selection should be transparent and accountable and if possible, undertaken by someone outwith the area or subject being reviewed .

29. We recommend that an evaluation of the merits of having special interest representation in a review should be guided by the nature and requirements of the review.

30. We recommend that alternative approaches be considered in whether it is more appropriate to have this representation as part of a sub group with an effective spokesperson to feedback discussion to the core group.

Chapter 6: Role and conduct of the chair and members of a review.

31. We recommend that a process be established to manage any changes to the membership of a review. The process should include matters such as intimation of any resignations and consideration of replacements and quoracy.

32. We recommend that a review should agree, at the outset, what it is seeking to establish and the methodology of how this can be achieved. Whilst we would anticipate that an investigative/inquisitorial approach may be the norm[1] it would depend on the nature and requirements of the review.

33. We recommend that group members of a review have equal access to information and points of contact.

34. We recommend that consideration be given to providing members of a review with appropriate training and induction covering matters such as conduct and responsibilities, as well as matters pertaining to confidentiality, information sharing outwith the group and how to manage enquiries from the media.

Chapter 8: The composition and production of a review report.

36. We recommend that it is clearly defined who has editorial control for the structure and composition of any report.

37. We recommend that there is a clear understanding of who has responsibility for the printing and publication of any report.

Chapter 9: The timeframe, administration and budget of a review.

38. We recommend that there should be a clear and realistic indication of the timeline of a review. This should be included in the terms of reference.

39. We recommend that the commissioning party should provide oversight and support to the chair to manage and review any lapse in timescale .

40. We recommend that consideration should be given to the creation of a dedicated administrative support unit within the Scottish Government. This unit could be utilised for all commissioned reviews.

41. We recommend that the ultimate responsibility for the content of the minutes rests with the chair.

42. We recommend that there should be a template that standardises what is presented at the conclusion of a Review, and how this information is presented .

43. We recommend that a budget should be identified at the beginning of any discussion on the commission of a review.

44. We recommend that the chair and members should be advised if there is to be remuneration for membership and, if so, agreement should be reached on the terms of any remuneration.

Chapter 10: The management of external influences.

  • 45. We recommend that if there is reason to believe that the subject under review will attract media and wider public interest, there should be support and media training for both the chair and members of the review.
  • 46. We recommend that training should be provided and reassurances given to members that advice and support to manage media scrutiny is available.


Email: David Bishop

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