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NHS quangos are to be cut in half

HPA and NPSA are to be abolished as part of swinging cuts

Adrian O'Dowd

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Several well-known NHS bodies are to be axed as part of the latest government attempt to save public money.

The Department of Health has published its Report of the Arm’s Length Bodies Review, which says the number of quangos is to be cut from 18 to between eight and 10 (some final decisions are pending).

The bodies to be abolished include the Health Protection Agency and the National Patient Safety Agency with some of their responsibilities being moved to a new body called Public Health Service.

Health secretary Andrew Lansley said the cuts would save an estimated £180m by 2014-15 and most of the work done by the bodies that were being abolished was being “streamlined” to continue under other organisations.

The NHS Institute for Innovation and Improvement will also go with its functions moving to the NHS Commissioning Board by April 2012

The Human Tissue Authority will be abolished by the end of this parliament and the Human Fertlisation and Embryology Authority will be disbanded and its functions spilt between a new research regulator, the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Social Care Information Centre by April 2013.

Mr Lansley said: “Over the years the sector has grown to the point where overlap between organisations and duplication of effort have produced a needless bureaucratic web.

“I know that the uncertainty created by this review has been difficult for staff. We will be supporting them to carry on their essential work during and beyond the period of transition.”

Bodies that will remain include the Care Quality Commission (CQC), NICE, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and Monitor, which will become an economic regulator, operating a joint licensing regime with the CQC.

BMA head of science and ethics, Dr Vivienne Nathanson, said the proposals to downscale or close organisations had “far reaching implications”.

“While we agree that it may be possible for some functions, for example IT, finance and human resources, to be shared, the BMA will need to be assured that the essential work currently undertaken by these bodies is not damaged,” said Dr Nathanson.

“The fact that the Health Protection Agency has been a stand alone body has always been seen as beneficial - public health messages are often more effective coming from this agency than the government.”

Peter Walsh, chief executive of Action against Medical Accidents (AvMA) – the charity for patient safety and justice, said: “There is no denying there is scope for bringing some of the quangos together, however we must avoid the danger that work on patient safety could be watered down in the new arrangements.”

Report of the Arm’s Length Bodies Review is at: http://www.dh.gov.uk/en/Publicationsandstatistics/Publications/DH_117691

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