A number of health arm’s length bodies are up for the chop and others will see their functions streamlined under the government’s quest to cut bureaucracy, in a move pegged to save over £180 million by 2014/15.

Health Secretary Andrew Lansley has published a review of the Department of Health’s arms-length bodies (ALBs) that makes several proposals for a transformation of the sector “to cut cost and remove duplication and burdens on the NHS”, cutting the number from 18 to between eight and 10.

Fatalities under the plans – which are still subject to parliamentary approval – include the NHS Institute for Improvement and Innovation and the National Patient Safety Agency, some functions of which will be transferred to the NHS Commissioning Board, as well as the Health Protection Agency, elements of which will transfer to the Secretary of State as part of the new Public Health Service.

The Care Quality Commission will be retained as a quality inspectorate across health and social care, operating a joint licensing regime with Monitor, and will be the ‘host organisation’ for HealthWatch England, which is tasked with collating and providing performance data.

Functions of the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency will also be left unchanged, but with the expectation that it will undertake its regulatory duties in the most cost effective way, the DH stressed, and the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence is also safe, but with a “firmer statutory footing by establishing it in primary legislation”, it said.

“Over the years the sector has grown to the point where overlap between organisations and duplication of effort have produced a needless bureaucratic web [and] by making sure that the right functions are being carried out at the appropriate level, we will free up significant savings to support front-line NHS services,” said Lansley, explaining the plans.

"We support the aspiration for a properly streamlined arms length sector with clear areas of responsibility for regulation,” said Nigel Edwards, acting chief executive of the NHS Confederation, and reiterated the importance of “a clear definition of the scope and functions of each arms-length-body, to help to reduce mission creep”.

But he also stressed that the importance of ensuring that “this does not mean important functions carried out by the bodies being abolished are lost to the NHS”.