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Exclusive: expert panel to advise prime minister on NHS

Number 10 Downing Street is establishing its own panel of senior health policy experts – including two former NHS chief executives – to advise the prime minister on NHS reform, HSJ has learned.

David Cameron’s office has organised the first meeting of the group tomorrow morning to discuss health service reform, senior sources said. It is believed the focus will be on NHS reform in general, rather than pushing through health secretary Andrew Lansley’s proposals specifically.

Those invited include Lord Crisp, NHS chief executive and Department of Health permanent secretary from 2000 to 2006, and Sir Ian Carruthers, who was NHS chief executive during 2006 and is now NHS South West chief executive.

HSJ understands they also include former Monitor executive chairman Bill Moyes and former NHS director general of commissioning and system management Mark Britnell, now KPMG’s global head of health.

Others involved include University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust chief executive Sir Robert Naylor, NHS Confederation interim chief executive Nigel Edwards, Nuffield Trust chief executive Jennifer Dixon and David Kerr, professor of cancer medicine at Oxford University.

Sources said it was likely to be an ongoing panel for Number 10 to discuss health policy and reform. It has been organised by Paul Bate, the former adviser to Tony Blair who was appointed by David Cameron in March 2011. One source described it as a “kitchen cabinet” which would continue providing advice.

A senior source said the group was not being established to discuss Mr Lansley’s proposals but instead to “try out” other ideas. A source said: “He [Paul Bate] wants to get heads together to reflect ideas off.”

The panel is not part of the NHS Future Forum “listening exercise” which has been asked to suggest “improvements” to Mr Lansley’s Health Bill.

Readers' comments (23)

  • Is this a policy in chaos or what???

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  • phil kenmore

    Sensible. Get some good advice about what health reform is really about and how to go about it in a more engaging way. Some of those listed have are perhaps a bit old school but Mark B and Nigel E will at least give some sharpness to the discussion.

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  • As far as it goes, that's an impressive advisory body. The BMA and patient representative bodies may feel inclined (if not the need) to express disappointment that their expertise are not being called upon.

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  • This is policy chaos. It is time to re-establish a properly constituted UK national advisory board for the NHS. We used to have a Central Health Services Council until Thatcher abolished it as a quango in the the 1980s.

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  • 'Nothing about us without us'.

    Oh.

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  • Horse - gate - bolted all spring to mind.

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  • By definition, most of the great and the good of the NHS are part of whatever problem exists and none more so than former CEOs. At least Lansley was prepared to challenge NHS institutional forces in the interests of better outcomes. That is not to say his programme could succeed but this group is more likely to deflect and absorb change than promote the relentless pursuit of improved outcomes we so badly need. Some perceptive individuals but perhaps too many records to defend and interests to advance.

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  • phil kenmore

    Sensible. Get some good advice about what health reform is really about and how to go about it in a more engaging way. Some of those listed have are perhaps a bit old school but Mark B and Nigel E will at least give some sharpness to the discussion.

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  • phil kenmore

    I'm not sure why this site has just posted my comment above for a second time!

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  • Definition of "expert" comes in 2 parts:

    "Ex" = something that has been
    and
    "spurt" = drip under pressure.

    Fills us all with hope.

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  • A sensible idea in theory, but two aspects to look at:
    - the people; some good names (Jennifer Dixon and Nigel Edwards in particular), but could do with a few more fresher faces really. And the recent writings and thoughts that both Mark Britnell (sorry Phil) and Prof Kerr have contributed to the HSJ have been rather underwhelming. No patients ? No other clinicians ? Even if Cameron really wants a combination of fresh ideas and peole who really know the system, I'm afraid this is all a bit lacklustre
    - the process; where on earth does this sit in the increasingly enormous train wreck that is Govt health policy ?

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  • Why do we need more advice? - What we need is to go back to the good old days (about a year ago) with loadsa money, well paid Chief Execs (1/4 million per annum or so) to implement policy, hitting targets left, right and centre and Bob's your uncle - no sweat!

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  • Says a lot about La la that he's on the outside now.

    Did I fall asleep and enter a parallel universe where things work backwards......

    Legislation >> Consultation >> Advisory Group

    Here's the killer though. As distinguished as the panel are, they have NOT ONE DAY'S EXPERIENCE BETWEEN THEM of commissioning healthcare.

    Recent developments have all the hallmarks of a the policy equivalent of a "random number generator". You might say, Anxious to dispel myths of conspiracy, the government have given a graphic demonstration that 'cock-up' is the order of the day.

    It's almost funny. Only a shame it's my job and the life expectancy of my family and friends that's at stake.

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  • Clive Peedell

    It will be interesting to see what happens to Lansley.
    Cameron has publicly backed him over the current reforms.
    Moreover Cameron and Lansley co-signed the Tory pre-cursor white paper to the current reforms, "NHS Autonomy and Accountabilty", in 2007. This is when they famoulsy stated there would be no more top down re-organisations of the NHS.
    Cameron is therefore inextricably linked to these reforms. If he sacks Lansley, then he has no credibility himself. A difficult dilemma, I suspect.

    As for the advisors. He has chosen well as they all support his pro-market agenda.

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  • This makes an even more complete nonsense of the NHS Future Forum and the so-called "listening exercise" which has studiously avoided listening to anybody who does not agree with Andrew Lansley.
    Now it is clear that David Cameron for one won't be listening to the Forum either -- even if it does eventually produce any findings.
    It seems that the whole Forum exercise is simply to fill in time until after the local elections, with a view to terrifying the LibDems into dropping their objections to the Bill for fear of triggering an election that could all but wipe them out in Parliament.
    Meanwhile before the current lot of changes is even passed into law, Cameron is drawing up the next top-down "reforms" with Lord Cheesy Wotsit and a bunch of the people that helped New Labour squander billions on extra management, the nonsensical fraud of "World Class Commissioning", ISTCs and other such unwanted, expensive and unsuccessful ventures into market-style system.
    This type of ideological policy making leaves no room for evidence, or weighing up the experience of previous failures: once again they are reinventing the flat tyre.
    Meanwhile as this sideshow continues, and mad scientist Lansley dabbles with his test tubes in a padded room, financially desperate Trusts and PCTs are slashing services and staffing levels to the bone in a hell-for leather attempt to generate an unprecedented, and probably impossible level of "efficiency savings" -- as Monitor tells them they are not cutting anywhere near enough, and the private sector gets set to cash in.
    None of the important things are discussed, and the biggest areas of wasteful spending go unchallenged, with management consultants ruling the roost: more PFI anyone?

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  • Clive Peedell

    I fully concur with John Lister.
    This is a classic case of "failing forwards"

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  • Get a grip!

    If all goes to Lansleys plan we will have nothing to advise on. Every day this gets worse. Further cuts are made - please put a stop to all of this.
    Take stock - look at where we are now and slowly move forward. Keep everyone informed. Work on staff engagement and talk to people. Don't think we have all the answers.


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  • Putt's Fourth Law of Advice

    When in doubt form a task force. When doubt persists form a committee.

    Finagle's Fourth Law

    Once a job is fouled up, anything done to improve it only makes it worse.

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  • Same clowns, different circus........................

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  • So, if the so-called NHS Future Forum and the Cameron Panel come up with divergent recommendations, which advice will be followed??
    If I were a FF member and invested time and energy in my role I would be furious if this new panel of upstarts came along and all my work was wasted. This strange decision to have a second group devalues both Cameron and Lansley at a stroke - Lansley because he is being side-lined, and Cameron who is dithering.

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