A six month review of the health service’s improvement organisations has finished, but may be subject to a further extended implementation phase, HSJ has learned.

  • Review of improvement bodies has been sent to chiefs of national NHS bodies
  • Ed Smith’s report is not expected to be published until after the election
  • Report recommends six month implementation phase to dissolve, reform and set up organisations

The review of NHS improvement and leadership capacity, led by NHS England deputy chair Ed Smith, was launched in October on the back of the NHS Five Year Forward View.

Its final report has been sent to the chief executives of national NHS bodies in recent weeks but will not be published until at least after the general election, several senior sources have told HSJ.

Ian Cumming

Ian Cumming is expected to chair a new leadership development board

Its key recommendation is for NHS Improving Quality to be dissolved, with much of the improvement work it does to be carried out by NHS England or academic health science networks. The NHS Leadership Academy will be retained, as will clinical senates and clinical networks.

The report also recommends setting up two boards: one overseeing leadership development, chaired by Health Education England chief executive Ian Cumming; and one overseeing improvement. It is not known if a chair has been decided for the latter. The boards are expected to lead new strategies for their areas.

However, senior sources involve in the work said the final report left room for changes to its plans, by phrasing them as suggestions rather than final decisions.

It recommends a six month implementation phase, which is expected to be overseen by the provider sector regulator Monitor.

One senior figure involved in the work said the implementation phase may not begin until June, meaning the project may not be complete until the “end of the current [calendar] year at best”. That source said that because six months have already passed since the work started, it would be better to complete any changes more quickly.

Another senior source close to the project said the report included flexibility about its recommendations, and had a long implementation period, to give space for an incoming new government to decide whether to approve it or make changes.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The report’s recommendations are currently being considered, and once final decisions are taken following the election, implementation will begin.”