NHS England (NHSE) boss Simon Stevens will head up both NHSE and NHS Improvement (NHSI) following the resignation of NHSI chief executive Ian Dalton in the wake of news that the two bodies plan to ‘merge’.
The two organisations have been working in close collaboration for the past year but at a joint board meeting last week, they proposed legislative changes that would permit a more formal collaboration and potentially a full merger.
In a letter to staff, Dalton said the two boards had agreed that a model with two chief executives was not the best way forward and planned to create a new chief operating officer role for NHSI reporting directly to Simon Stevens.
In a statement, he said: ‘I feel a degree of personal regret that I will not be part of the joint organisation that will turn the NHS Long Term Plan into action, but it is the right decision to make this change at this time.’
The move has been welcomed across many parts of the NHS, which have long advocated the creation of a single overaching body.
NHS Confederation chief executive Niall Dickson said the national leadership of the NHS needed a clear and single view about the future direction for the service, adding that this had not always been the case.
‘Twin regulators have too often meant dual messages from the centre. This is another important step towards greater consistency,’ he said.
He said that moving to a single integrated team, led by Simon Stevens, had to be ‘the right move’.
However, at the same time, he warned, that the combined organisation would need to be an ‘enabling one which understands, empowers and works to support frontline leaders’.
‘The NHS Long Term Plan will be delivered by letting local systems lead not by more centralisation and control,’ he added.