HC Deb 26 February 2004 vol 418 cc573-4W
Mr. Hinchliffe

To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what the expected impact is of the departmental change programme on the provision of benefit and welfare services to the public; [153680]

(2) what the specific objectives are of the departmental change programme; and how the Department has consulted (a) staff, (b) other Government Departments and agencies and (c) external agencies and partners about this matter; [153682]

(3) what analysis has been carried out to demonstrate that the restructuring programme for the Department will provide (a) better value for money and (b) better accountability; [153683]

(4) what health programmes and services will be affected by the reorganisation and staff cuts within the Department. [153684]

Mr. Hutton

The Department will be responsible for setting overall direction for the health and social care system, enabling choice in service provision, setting standards, securing resources, making the big investment decisions and holding the whole system to account through independent regulation and inspection. This will mean that the capacity needed for the whole system to operate effectively is available. Patients, service users and providers of care will all know what is expected anywhere in the country. Where standards are not being met, the Government will intervene where necessary.

The change programme will focus the Department on a more strategic role, devolving responsibility to the front line. It will change the way the Department does its business so that it can provide more effective leadership and a better service to Ministers and the public. This will result in a reduction in the size of the core Department by 1,400—from over 3,600 posts to 2,200—by October 2004.

Staff have been consulted through major events and workshops in London and Leeds to help design the Department, monthly written and face-to-face briefings and monthly workshops on human resource questions. Government Departments, agencies and other partners have been consulted through special events in June and October 2004 to help design the changes, a series of one-to-one meetings on particular issues and progress updates from the Permanent Secretary, Sir Nigel Crisp, in June and October 2004.

The restructuring will provide a slimmer, more focused centre—reducing burden and duplication in the system. New policy development processes will ensure we make the best use of resources by focusing on priorities and involving service users in policy development. New working methods will improve our accountability to Parliament and the public. The change programme will be evaluated to check its delivery.

The change programme supports the drive for better public services. It ensures that the 'centre of gravity' moves closer to the frontline. More freedom for frontline staff will lead to better services for patients and users.