One body could eventually control how the public sector is monitored, a new independent review published today recommended.

The study, which looked into all aspects of public sector regulation and inspection, also calls for an immediate shake-up of how local government is scrutinised.

Assessment of the NHS should become more independent and a consistent, local complaints system should be introduced across the board, overseen by the Scottish Public Services Ombudsman.

The review, chaired by Professor Lorne Crerar, former convener of the Standards Commission of Scotland, makes a total of 42 recommendations to improve the role of scrutiny within the public sector.

He said: "There are a significant number of external scrutiny organisations in Scotland, all with some responsibility for checking and assessing public services.

"I have made a number of recommendations, which I believe would cut bureaucracy, free up resources and increase the focus of public services on the experience of the user.

"I am proposing a substantial reduction in the burden experienced by providers that, in the longer term, would reduce significantly what I believe to be an unnecessarily overcrowded landscape."

Evidence was taken from stakeholder events, academics, local authorities, health boards, independent healthcare providers and around 250 care and social housing providers.

The review concluded that organisations were often burdened by excessive scrutiny, which lacked transparency and often duplicated work.

Prof Crerar said in the long-term Scotland's 43 scrutinising bodies, 37 of whom gave evidence to the review, should come under one national body.

They include fire service, police, prison and schools inspectorates as well as bodies set up since devolution such as the information, public appointments and children's commissioners.

Prof Crerar also found there was no reason why a standardised complaints procedure could not be introduced across the country to replace the "very, very confusing" procedures currently in operation.

The report sets out timescales of one, two and four years for changes to be made to specific bodies.

"I also say in some areas that even in the very short-term some immediate things need to be done," Prof Crerar added.

"Specifically with local government, which is heavily over scrutinised in my view.

"I make the proposal that there should be an almost gatekeeper environment and recommend the Accounts Commission, that's to say, to patrol the amount of scrutiny activity and control it better immediately."