Ian Dalton has announced he is stepping down as chief executive of NHS Improvement (NHSI), a move that will lead to NHS England’s (NHSE) chief executive Simon Stevens becoming head of both teams.

The switch-up comes after a new briefing proposal suggested that both organisations believe “legislative change would support more rapid progress.”

A new operation officer has not yet been appointed for NHS Improvement.

Responding to leadership changes, Niall Dickson, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, which represents organisations across the healthcare sector, said: “We have long advocated the merger of NHS England and NHS Improvement – twin regulators have too often meant dual messages from the centre. This is another important step towards greater consistency.

"The national leadership of the NHS needs to have a clear and single view about the future direction for the service. This has not always been the case, so moving to one integrated team, led by Simon Stevens, has to be the right move.

"At the same time, we must make sure the new combined organisation is an enabling one which understands, empowers and works to support frontline leaders. The NHS Long Term Plan will be delivered by letting local systems lead not by more centralisation and control.