Boris Johnson is reportedly planning a radical reorganisation of the NHS in the wake of coronavirus.
The Prime Minister is understood to have set up a task force to devise plans for how ministers can regain the direct control over the health service they lost in 2012 under former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s reforms.
The move is being seen as an attempt to dilute the powerbase built by NHS England Chief Executive Sir Simon Stevens, who has been in the post since 2014.
Made up of senior civil servants and advisers from Downing Street, the Treasury and the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) – the Health and Social Care Taskforce is drawing up proposals that would restrict NHS England’s operational independence, according to a report by the Guardian.
It is claimed the taskforce will report back after the summer with a set of detailed options that will be followed by a parliamentary bill to enact the proposals.
A source is quoted as saying Health secretary Matt Hancock is “frustrated” by how limited his powers are and “wants to get some of that back”.
“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,” the source added.
Speaking to Times Radio on Friday, Mr Hancock appeared to hint at a change in direction saying: "We have got make sure that we bring the different parts of the NHS together and remove some of the barriers that have held it apart.
Raising the spectre of a law change, he added: "Some of that is in legislation but others are just culturally different bits of the NHS. It is a team effort - it needs to be brought together, there needs to be more cooperation across different parts of the NHS. That is what happened in the crisis, that is what happened when the NHS was under massive pressure.”
Although he insisted he was not in favour of “some big reorganisation”, he said: "I am constantly looking at the frontline for the NHS to be freed to deliver better. I just want to make it as easy as possible for people on the frontline to do their jobs."
A Government spokesman said the article was “pure speculation,”, adding: “As has been the case throughout the pandemic, our focus is on protecting the public, controlling the spread of the virus, and saving lives.”