Boris Johnson is planning to bring the NHS under more political control with a new reorganisation of the health service, it has been reported.
The prime minister has set up a taskforce to review the service's governance and transfer more power back to ministers amid frustration at the independence of its leadership.
The Guardian newspaper reports that the Prime Minister's Health and Social Care Taskforce is drawing up plans that would hand more power to the Government and reduce the operational independence of NHS England.
The public body was given significant power under the 2010 coalition government's NHS reforms, which made its chief executive, currently Simon Stevens, the de facto head of the service.
The move, news of which No.10 has branded "pure speculation", would be politically risky and represents a change in approach from the government, which has recently let the NHS run itself after a period of upheaval under former health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Detailed proposals are expected to be presented to the prime minister in the summer, with a range of options being drawn up by officials from Downing Street, the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) and the Treasury.
“The options put forward to the prime minister will be about how the government can curb the powers of NHS England and increase the health secretary’s ‘powers of direction’ over it, so that he doesn’t have to try to persuade Simon Stevens to do something,” a source with knowledge of the plans told the Guardian.
It is expected that the reforms would “clip Simon Stevens’ wings” and hand power back to the health secretary Matt Hancock. who is said to be frustrated at the lack of power he has.
A Downing Street spokesperson said: “This is pure speculation. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our focus is on protecting the public, controlling the spread of the virus, and saving lives.”