External audit reports: the role of the audit committee

Updated June 2021

Lisa Robertson

24 June 2021


This short paper is intended to support audit committee members to easily understand the range of external audit reports and additional powers.

In the context of ongoing financial pressures and change in the NHS, the need for strong financial and governance arrangements is particularly important. Auditors provide a key source of information to audit committee members, and the public, in determining and reporting on the financial statements, VFM arrangements and other matters.

The audit committee has a crucial role in scrutinising these arrangements. Committee members must ensure that they fully understand external audit reports so that they are in a position to effectively scrutinise and challenge actions being taken to address issues being raised.

This short paper, updated in June 2021, reflects the updated NAO auditor guidance notes on: VFM arrangements; NHS planning; and auditor reporting, as well as their supplementary guidance note on going concern. In particular, it covers the change due to Covid-19 for 2020/21 that auditors may need to delay issuing their auditor’s annual report (with VFM commentary) in order to deliver their opinions on the financial statements. 

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External audit reports: the role of the audit committee

June 2021 (PDF 251KB)

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