NHS chief executive Nigel Crisp has unveiled his blueprint for the future shape of the Department of Health, with 'a smaller group of key priorities' and a single top team across health and social care.

It follows an extensive review, with input from NHS chief executives and a range of outside organisations in a break from Whitehall tradition.

The revamped DoH will focus on five areas - high-priority clinical conditions, primary care, emergency care, waiting times and 'looking after people in the right environment and in the right way'.

It promises 'more regular meetings and networks of clinicians and managers', a 'simplification of current monitoring arrangements' and changes 'stemming the tide of initiatives'. The shake-up sees changed roles and responsibilities for directors reporting to Mr Crisp. Among those are chief nursing officer Sarah Mullally, who adds public involvement, mental health and health and social care policy on disabled people to her remit.

Chief inspector of social services Denise Platt will take on responsibility for health and social care services for elderly people and children as well as women's health and maternity services.

The new structure also integrates the Modernisation Agency under director David Fillingham into the mainstream of the DoH.

The blueprint says the DoH will continue to bring in external expertise, 'including more emphasis on short-term consultancy style appointments', with a patients' champion, an information director and an advisor on private sector partnerships.

But the future of regional offices is left unclear. The document says regional directors will keep their current roles until 2003, when they will be replaced by regional directors of health and social care.

NHS Confederation policy director Nigel Edwards said: 'Structural change is less important than changes in behaviour and culture.'

The DoH should be asking: 'Is this policy or guidance really necessary?

Does it provide the minimum specification needed?' he said.