Intended for healthcare professionals


Government announces army of 133 to rescue England's NHS

BMJ 2000; 320 doi: (Published 15 April 2000) Cite this as: BMJ 2000;320:1027
  1. Judy Jones
  1. MalmesburyWiltshire

    The “great and the good” of England's healthcare establishment and a “new model army” of Blairite innovators have beenmobilised to draw up a plan to revitalise the NHS—by July (1 April, p 889)

    A full membership list for the six task forces (modernisation action teams)was published by the Department of Health last week. The 133 name call up reveals an eclectic and potentially explosive mix.

    The Department of Health summed up the composition of the task forces as “leading and frontline doctors, nurses, patients, managers and other NHS staff.”

    Close inspection of the list, however, also reveals that substantial numbers of bureaucrats and government officials are getting a slice of the action.

    Senior managers, executives, and Department of Health representatives seem to make up the largest single group (52) among the recruits—both in total and within each team. Doctors, nurses, other health professionals, or their leaders, constitute the second biggest group (45).

    A miscellany of non-NHS professionals, bureaucrats, and academics form the third biggest group (17). Patients' groups were accorded only 14 places. Those filling the remaining five places are drawn from social services departments and social care organisations.

    The work of each action team will feed into a steering group to be chaired by the health secretary, Alan Milburn. A Cabinet subcommittee on modernisation of the NHS is being chaired by Tony Blair. Each action team will address one of five areas for improvement.

    • Partnership with social care systems: members include Christine Hancock, general secretary of the Royal College of Nursing; Andrew Foster, chairman of the Audit Commission; Dr Ian Bogle, chairman of the BMA's council; and DenisePlatt, chief inspector of social services.

    • Performance and productivity: members include Professor Don Berwick, head of healthcare policy at the Harvard Medical School; Professor Sir Michael Rawlins, chairman of the National Institute of Clinical Excellence; and Stephen Thornton, chief executive of the NHS Confederation

    • Professions and the wider NHS workforce: members include Bob Abberley, head of health at Unison; Sir GeorgeAlberti, president of the Royal College of Physicians; and broadcaster Nick Ross.

    • Patient care: two teams will look at separate aspects of care—empowerment, and speed of access to services. Members of the empowerment team include Professor Mike Richards, the national cancer director; Karlene Davis, general secretary of the Royal College of Midwives; and Paul Streets, chief executive of the British Diabetic Association. Members of the speed of access team include Roger Boyle, the national heart director; Mr Barry Jackson, president of the Royal College of Surgeons; and Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer.

    • Prevention and inequalities: members include Mr James Johnson, chairman of the Joint Consultants Committee;Sir Alexander Macara, chairman of the National Heart Forum; and Moira Wallace of the government's social exclusion unit.

    Some commentators are concerned not only about the sheer size of each action team—ranging from 21 to 24 members—but also about the tight deadline for drawing up the national plan.

    John Appleby, director of health systems at the King's Fund, a health think tank, said; “The short time scale does make you wonder whether a plan already exists in outline and it is just a question of drawing people into it.”

    A full list of the teams can be accessed at the Department of Health's website (

    Embedded Image

    Embedded Image

    Embedded Image

    (Credit: BBC)

    Members of the government's team to revitalise the NHS in England include Don Berwick, head of healthcare policy at the Harvard Medical School; Melinda Letts, chairwomen of the charity Long Term Medical Conditions Alliance; and the broadcaster Nick Ross

    View Abstract

    Log in

    Log in through your institution


    * For online subscription