DHSC sets up NHS Delivery Unit to 'tackle waiting lists and recover services'

Sir Michael Barber will advise health secretary on new unit after calling for ‘war room’ to support underperforming NHS trusts
Photo: Crown Copyright/Open Government Licence v3.0

By CSW staff

15 Nov 2021

The Department of Health and Social Care will set up a new data-focused NHS Delivery Unit to tackle growing waits for treatment following the pandemic.

“We are committed to working with the NHS to tackle waiting lists and recover services through our record investment which will deliver an extra nine million checks, scans and operations for patients across the country,” said a DHSC spokesperson. “This will be supported by a new NHS Delivery Unit.”

Sir Michael Barber, who led Tony Blair’s Downing Street delivery unit, is advising health secretary Sajid Javid on setting up the new NHS unit after having proposed this in an article for The Times in October.

However, Barber told CSW reports that he would lead the new NHS unit are inaccurate.

In The Times, he called on Javid to “mobilise the entire delivery chain that connects his office to hospitals, operating theatres and patients across the country”.

“That means hospital chief executives must share the heat; hence the pressure he has started to apply," he said.

“Javid should set up a ‘war room’ next to his private office. Unannounced, he can then check in with the relevant officials between his meetings,” he added.

He also said the unit should monitor weekly data from individual hospitals, and apply pressure where required: “One or two will be seriously underperforming and require firm intervention. Javid should not flinch; he should show early on that he means what he says.”

The news comes after Johnson appointed the NHS’s chief commercial officer and vaccination lead Emily Lawson to lead a new Downing Street delivery unit in April.

Barber founded the Prime Minister’s Delivery Unit in 2001 and led it until 2005. He then worked in the private sector, academia and on educational reform in Pakistan, then served as first chair of the Office for Students from 2017-20.

He also proposed the public value framework that is being used to ensure projects deliver value for money. In January, the prime minister Boris Johnson commissioned Barber to review the delivery of governmental projects and programmes.

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