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NICE gets expanded role in quango cull

Published on 27/07/10 at 11:43am
Andrew Lansley

The bonfire of the quangos has begun in earnest in the health sector, with 18 so-called “arm’s length bodies” cut to between eight and ten.

The rationale is that there has been much duplication of effort between them – and steamlining these standalone national organisations, which are sponsored by the Department of Health, will save more than £180 million by the financial year 2014-15, the government says.

The big winner is the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence: not only will NICE be kept, it will be put on a firmer statutory footing by establishing it in primary legislation – and its scope will widen to include social care standards.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) will also be retained, but salvation comes with a warning that it is “with the expectation that it will undertake its regulatory duties in the most cost effective way”.

The Appointments Commission is not so lucky, consigned to the scrapheap in the next two years “in view of the very substantial reduction in the number of appointments required”, with its appointments now being made by the Department of Health.

“In order to secure every possible means to greater value for money and efficiency, we have acted decisively to ensure that our ALB sector remains fit for purpose and affordable,” says health secretary Andrew Lansley.

The Health Protection Agency is also to be abolished, with its functions transferred to Lansley as part of the new Public Health Service.

The Care Quality Commission, which regulates health and adult social care provision, will be retained but its remit to assess commissioning moves to the NHS Commissioning Board.

Other casualties include the Alcohol Education and Research Council and the Council for Healthcare Regulatory Excellence.

The National Patient Safety Agency will to be abolished, with safety functions moved to the National Commissioning Board.

Both the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority and Human Tissue Authority have a stay of execution, although the government’s aim is to divide their functions between a new research regulator, the Care Quality Commission and the Health and Social Care Information Centre. 

Adam Hill

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