Ministers are to merge four NHS quangos into one, as part of efforts to ensure that record investment is not wasted on bureaucracy.
The moves will see NHSX – the health technology unit set up by then Health Secretary Matt Hancock – folded into NHS England, along with public bodies responsible for information technology and workforce planning.
Ministers said the reforms would help to support the country’s recovery from Covid, and help to tackle waiting lists.
NHSX was established in early 2019, and championed by Mr Hancock to promote “digital transformation” in the NHS. But critics questioned whether there were overlaps between its role and that of NHS England, the central body which runs the health service, and NHS Digital, a body which publishes data and helps information sharing.
Last week, Sajid Javid told a conference: “Although we’ve seen phenomenal work on digital transformation during this pandemic from so many people, it does strike me as odd that digital leadership is currently split across NHSE, NHSX and NHS Digital."
The changes will also see Health Education England – the body in charge of education, training and workforce planning – become part of NHS England.
Health officials have warned that tackling major staffing shortages is one of the biggest challenges facing health and social care.
NHS is sucking up most of the money for government departments
On Monday night, Sajid Javid, Health Secretary, said: “To ensure our record NHS investment makes a lasting impact, I am bringing workforce planning and digital transformation into the heart of the NHS. These reforms will support our recovery from Covid-19 and help us tackle waiting lists to give patients excellent care in years to come.”
The mergers come alongside planned changes to health and social care, which aim to reverse previous reforms brought in under Andrew Lansley.
The Health and Social Care bill proposes the establishment of 42 Integrated Care Systems (ICSs) made up of GP surgeries, community and mental health trusts, hospitals and other primary care services, with local authorities and other care providers.
The plans aim to ensure services co-operate more closely with each other.
The previous reforms reduced management spending by one third in the years after the changes were made. However, the costs included almost £1.6bn on redundancy payments for NHS managers in the first four years of the programme, including some 4,000 “revolving door” managers who received payouts but since returned on full or part-time contracts.