Headlines: July 23rd, 2004

The number of National Health Service bodies working at arm’s length from the Department of Health is to be virtuallty halved under plans to save at least 500 million pounds in funding and to increase the resources that can be channelled directly to patient care.The Health Secretary John Reid set out the details in a statement naming the bodies that will be merged, abolished or see their functions streamlined. It is the second stage of the Department of Health’s changes to the way it works with stakeholders in the health and social care system.

John Reid said the changes would generate resources equivalent to four new hospitals or 20,000 more nurses by 2008. The bodies had done a lot of good work, he said, but the sector had grown over several decades and no longer met current health and social care needs or those of the future Bodies to be abolished include the Mental Health Act Commission, the Health Development Agency, the Commission for Patient and Public Involvement in Health, the Public Health Laboratory Service and the National Radiological protection Board, the Family Health Services Appeal Authority, the NHS Information Authority, NHS Estates and a number of bodies whose functions will be merged in a new Business Services Authority.

There will be a new Regulatory Authority for Fertility and Tissue encompassing the work of the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and the proposed Human Tissue Authority. There will also be a new blood and transplant authority. New arrangements will be put in place to provide administrative support and advice to patients’ forums and the National Patient Safety Agency will support independent ethical reviews of all research that could affect patients and take the lead on hospital food, cleanliness and safe hospital design. A new Health and Social Care Information Centre will be created to co-ordinate information requirements across a wide range of bodies.

The Department for health has said it will develop a memorandum of understanding on human resources processes with the organisations affected by the review.