31/10/2003

Health department to downsize by 1,400 jobs

At the Health Select Committee today, Health Secretary John Reid has said that he was committed to decentralising power to local hospitals and announced that he is to cut 1,400 jobs from his department.

Mr Reid said that the department was implementing "radical change" that will reduce the size of the core department by 1,400 - from over 3,600 posts to 2,200 - by October 2004. Half of those posts will not be replaced and will be dealt with by efficiency savings, while the rest of the reduction will be achieved by transferring posts to other national bodies.

He said that a 1.3 million-strong service like the NHS should not be run from Whitehall, and those who provide local services should be given the freedom to innovate and flexibility to respond to patients' needs.

Speaking at the Select Committee John Reid said: "Politicians and civil servants should focus on strategic issues rather than on day to day management of the NHS. But the process of devolving power to the front-line has to start from the top. We cannot tell others to act efficiently if we're not prepared to do so ourselves so we have to lead by example from the centre. We are not just talking about decentralisation - we are doing it."

In addition to the changes in the Department of Health Mr Reid told the committee about the need to reduce numbers working in "arms-length bodies". National health and social care bodies employ over 19,000 people and the department will be looking at the role of the bodies, how efficiently they are operating and how they can reduce demands on frontline services, he said.

(gmcg)

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