As the NHS drowns in reform, the danger of distraction grows.

The point was driven home by the Commons health committee report on commissioning.

The same concern is woven between the lines of Sir David Nicholson’s first interview since being named as chief executive of the NHS Commissioning Board.

Talking to HSJ together with minister for quality Earl Howe, Sir David emphasised the freedoms the reforms hope to bring to commissioners and providers. Both were eager to stress the need to keep innovating through this period of change - urging NHS staff to attend March’s Healthcare Innovation Expo.

In the interests of full disclosure we should point out that HSJ’s parent company is involved in the marketing of the event. That said, we can state our belief that the Expo is a brave venture - especially at a time of financial constraint. It aims to highlight the most innovative solutions to the large scale problems afflicting the service.

It will no doubt attract its fair share of criticism for the cost incurred to stage it, but it would have been very easy for the Department of Health to step away from helping to spread new ideas just as it began a prerequisite of survival - let alone progress.

The other key message of Sir David’s interview is that he has no intention of letting consortia take up the reins until they have demonstrated the ability to deliver on QIPP. It would have been very easy for him to avoid admitting that the Commissioning Board must have the option of directly managing or reconfiguring consortia that did not come up to snuff. Indeed, his boss has spent the last nine months doing just that.

That Sir David did not dodge the question was welcome and another sign of his renewed influence over policy.

Innovation Expo to profile QIPP programme