Further debate needed around NHS independence

Commenting on today's article in the Financial Times about proposals to give the NHS greater independence, Niall Dickson, King's Fund Chief Executive, said:

'We welcome the debate around creating greater autonomy for the NHS and reducing political interference in day-to-day management of the health service.

'The aim must be to liberate doctors, nurses and managers from stifling central control, but at the same time ensure that they are accountable for the services they commission and provide. In future, at a national level, we should be more concerned about the outcomes for patients and less about how local services are organised.

'However it is not yet clear whether setting up an independent NHS board is the best way to achieve this. The day-to-day running of health services is already supposed to be in the hands of local managers and boards, and we also have a range of organisations at arms length from government, such as the Healthcare Commission and NICE, who monitor and regulate the system.

'Therefore we do need further debate to clarify the respective roles of regulators, the Department of Health and parliament in taking decisions about funding, setting standards and defining the strategic objectives for health and health care. That may mean we can move to something more like an independent board at the centre but let us not rush into another ill-thought-through reorganisation. The NHS has seen too many of those already'

Notes to editors: 

  1. For further information or interviews, please contact the King’s Fund press and public affairs office on 020 7307 2585, 020 7307 2632 or 020 7307 2581. An ISDN line is available for interviews on 020 7637 0185.
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