An NHS independent of politics and politicians is 'a chimera' and risks undermining its tax-funded base, Professor Paul Corrigan, health adviser to the prime minister, told a King's Fund debate last week.
He argued that it was inconceivable that the running of the NHS could be detached from politics as long as the service was funded by taxes and remained a major issue for the public.
'They aren't going to stop thinking about it. It's called democracy and we are not going to remove politics from something that is political. Some of this is about an attack on a tax-based system.'
He said the government would not respond to the calls for independence from organisations such as the British Medical Association which he characterised as '[chair] Jim Johnson saying &Quot;give me£100bn and leave me alone&Quot;.'
'The future of the NHS is about commissioning services and that is about political decisions and technical skills, and where the line is drawn is very interesting.'
Professor Corrigan also warned that an arm's length government could be even more demanding than the current one, and without being constrained by the responsibility for delivery.
'If anyone is thinking about a career on an independent board, politicians can be unreasonable and so can the electorate.'
He said the 'enormous range of choices' offered by the NHS operating framework would disappear. 'What frightens me is how tight the service-level agreement for the board is likely to be before any money is handed over.'