Health think tank the King’s Fund has issued a scathing attack on the government’s stewardship of the NHS, particularly the Health and Social Care Bill.

In an 84-page report, the Fund says “historians will not be kind in their assessment of the coalition government’s record on NHS reform” and is critical of former health secretary Andrew Lansley’s bill which was “both damaging and distracting”. It argues that the second half of this parliament “was devoted to limiting the damage caused by the Bill and dealing with the effects of growing financial and service pressures in the NHS”.

The King’s Fund states that the reforms “have resulted in greater marketisation of the NHS” but argues that the Labour Party’s “claims of mass privatisation are exaggerated”. It goes on to state that the “new systems of governance and accountability resulting from the reforms are complex and confusing” and “an absence of system leadership is increasingly problematic when the NHS needs to undertake major service changes”.

The report concludes that the next government “should continue the emphasis on patient safety and quality of care but with less emphasis on regulation and more on supporting NHS leaders and staff to improve care”. It states that “evolutionary and bottom-up changes to the organisation of the NHS are needed to reduce the complexity and confusion of the structures introduced by the coalition government and to allow the implementation of the NHS five-year forward view”.

King’s Fund chief executive King's Fund chief executive Chris Ham told the BBC that people in the NHS “focused on rearranging the deckchairs rather than the core business of improving patient care. That's contributed to the increasing waiting times and declining performance that patients are experiencing”.

He described the reforms as "disastrous" and said that only in the past two years had the government improved its focus.