The panel of senior health policy experts appointed to advise the prime minister on NHS reform met for the first time yesterday.

HSJ has learned attendees included Nicolaus Henke, head of global health systems at consultancy McKinsey, as well as two former chief executives of the NHS.

David Cameron’s office organised the group to discuss health service reform. It is understood the discussion was about NHS reform in general, rather than pushing through health secretary Andrew Lansley’s proposals specifically.

The group also focused on the scale of efficiency savings and cuts the NHS is having to make this year, which pose a political risk for the government. Several large hospital trusts are known to be under significant financial pressure.

Those at the meeting 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.

One senior source speaking following the meeting said discussion looked at “the issues [in NHS reform] we need to think further about”.

Another said there was a focus on “taking the temperature [of the current state of the NHS] and trying to make sure that whatever happens next [in reform] is the correct step to take”.

Sources said the group 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 Mr Cameron in March 2011. One source described it as a “kitchen cabinet” which would continue providing advice.

The list of attendees at the meeting is understood to include: Lord Crisp; Sir Ian Carruthers; Nicolaus Henke; Brighton and Sussex University Hospitals chief executive and former NHS director general Duncan Selbie; former Monitor executive chairman Bill Moyes; University College London Hospitals Foundation Trust chief executive Sir Robert Naylor; Oxford University professor of cancer medicine David Kerr; and Nuffield Trust chief executive Jennifer Dixon.

A senior source said the group was not being established to discuss Mr Lansley’s proposals but instead to “try out” other ideas.

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.