The Health Advisory Service

An independent regulatory body

The NHS Hospital Advisory Service (HAS) was established in 1969 as an independent body reporting to the Secretary of State for Social Services about hospitals in England.

Then led by Dr Alex Baker, the objective of the service was to help hospitals improve the management of patient care by offering constructive advice and spreading good practice. It did not investigate individual complaints, but examined the services offered by hospitals.

Members of the HAS team were from a range of disciplines and were not permanent members of staff. The hospital was informed in advance of a visit from the advisory team.

The team would vary the length of their visit depending on the size of the institution. Local stakeholders and recently discharged patients were invited to participate.

The final report following a visit (which could take a number of weeks) was intended to focus on the general performance of the organisation and not target individuals for criticism. The HAS's focus was on peer review. Teams did not inspect against a list of standards.

Early focus

The Health Advisory Service first focused its attention towards institutions specialising in mental health or geriatric care. Its early reports highlighted communication issues and major concerns with hospitals of 1,000 or more beds. Inspection reports highlighted that professional isolation, low expectations and isolated institutions were at risk of providing poor care.

Later changes

In 1976, the organisation's remit was expanded to include community health services. As a result, it was renamed as the NHS Health Advisory Service. The NHS Health Advisory Service was intended to help health services to improve their management of patient care by:

  • conducting inspections
  • offering advice
  • spreading good practice.

The service was disbanded in 1997 and replaced by a consortium of professional bodies that provided advice on quality improvement in geriatric and mental health services.


National Health Service Health Advisory Service.
Reports and Papers: 1970-1980.
The National Archives; nd.

Seager C P.
The Hospital Advisory Service.
Int. J. Ment. Health.
1976; 5(3): 51–58.