'Reforming the DoH to make it an effective and respected department is an important step on the road to rebuilding NHS confidence in the government'

The Department of Health's response to the scathing 'capability review' of its operations published by the Cabinet Office in June said the report 'will add focus and momentum' to its reform (see 'Nicholson: let local managers drive health service reforms').

Not much momentum, it appears. Permanent secretary Hugh Taylor, NHS chief executive David Nicholson and chief medical officer Sir Liam Donaldson all put their signatures to the promise: 'We shall publish a full action plan in July with clear timetables and deliverables.'

July has come and gone, with no sign of the plan.

The DoH is now promising an outline 'shortly' with the action plan finally arriving two months late in September (see 'DoH misses deadline as it fails to deliver own turnaround plan').

The contents of the Cabinet Office review were hardly a surprise; indeed, the DoH triumvirate said it highlighted issues they knew they had to address. The response was written when everyone was waiting for a new government, so there are no excuses about the change of ministerial team.

The criticisms levelled in the review were wide-ranging and damning. The fact that the DoH appears to be struggling to frame a response must raise doubts about how well it is getting to grips with them.

And for a department which is so draconian on the need to hit deadlines and targets, it is galling for health service staff to see the DoH failing to hit an important deadline of its own making.

Reforming the DoH to make it an effective and respected department is an important step on the road to rebuilding NHS confidence in the government. Its leadership needs to deliver the promised momentum to secure the changes that are so badly needed.