Department of Health (United Kingdom)

Department of Health (United Kingdom)
Department of Health
Department of Health.png
Logo of the Department of Health
Department overview
Formed 1988
Preceding Department Department of Health and Social Security
Jurisdiction England
Headquarters London, England
Ministers responsible Andrew Lansley MP, Secretary of State for Health
Simon Burns MP, Minister of State for Health
Paul Burstow MP, Minister of State for Care Services
Department executives Una O'Brien, Permanent Secretary
David Nicholson, Chief Executive of the NHS
United Kingdom
Coat of Arms of the UK Government

This article is part of the series:
Politics and government of
the United Kingdom

Other countries · Atlas
Politics portal
view · talk · edit

The Department of Health (DH) is a department of the United Kingdom government with responsibility for government policy for health and social care matters and for the National Health Service (NHS) in England along with a few elements of the same matters which are not otherwise devolved to the Scottish, Welsh or Northern Irish governments. It is led by the Secretary of State for Health with two Ministers of State and two Parliamentary Under-Secretaries of State.

The role that the department of health plays is a role of overall introducing policies and guidelines which then improve the quality of care and they also help meet patient’s standards.

The DH carries out some of its work through arm's length bodies,[1] including non-departmental public bodies and executive agencies such as the Commercial Medicines Unit (CMU) and the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).



The Department of Health was formally created in 1988, through The Transfer of Functions (Health and Social Security) Order 1988. Like many others, the department with responsibility for the nation's health has had different names and included other functions over time.[2]

In the 19th century, several bodies were formed for specific consultative duties and dissolved when they were no longer required. There were two incarnations of the Board of Health (in 1805 and 1831) and a General Board of Health (1854 to 1858) that reported directly into the Privy Council. Responsibility for health issues was also at times, and in part, vested in local health boards and, with the emergence of modern local government, with the Local Government Act Office, part of the Home Office. In the early part of the 20th century, medical assistance was provided through National Health Insurance Commissions.

The first body which could be called a department of government was the Ministry of Health, created in 1919 through the Ministry of Health Act, consolidating under a single authority the medical and public health functions of central government. The co-ordination of local medical services was expanded in connection with emergency and wartime services, from 1935 to 1945, and these developments culminated in the establishment of the NHS in 1948.

In 1968, the Ministry of Health was dissolved and its functions transferred (along with those of the similarly dissolved Ministry of Social Security) to the newly created Department of Health and Social Security (DHSS). Twenty years later, these functions were split back into two government departments, forming the Department of Social Security (DSS) and the current Department of Health.


Upon de-merger from the DHSS the Department of Health was commonly abbreviated in internal Governmental correspondence to 'DoH', which was also used in staff email address endings ( This was changed to DH, omitting the 'o', circa 2004, unwritten internal sources suggesting that the original abbreviation may be uncomfortably close to Homer Simpson's expression of disdain "D'oh!". DH is now the abbreviation used in correspondence, official email addresses and URLs, although a number of health media outlets continue to favour the previous abbreviation.


The Department of Health headquarters in Whitehall

The official headquarters and ministerial offices are in Richmond House (Whitehall, London). Other London locations include Skipton House (Elephant and Castle), Wellington House near Waterloo station and New King's Beam House near Blackfriars Bridge. Alexander Fleming House and Hannibal House were previously used by the department. In addition, staff are based in Quarry House in Leeds,


The Department of Health Ministers are as follows:[3]

Minister Rank Portfolio
The Rt Hon Andrew Lansley CBE MP Secretary of State Overall responsibility
The Rt Hon Simon Burns MP Minister of State Health services
Paul Burstow MP Minister of State Care services, mental health, disabilities
Anne Milton MP Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Public health, devolved matters
The Earl Howe Parliamentary Under Secretary of State Quality, NHS Constitution, primary care, medicines
Key Conservative
Liberal Democrat

Permanent Secretary

The current Permanent Secretary at the Department of Health is Una O'Brien. Following the resignation of the previous Permanent Secretary Sir Nigel Crisp in March 2006 a separate post of Chief Executive of the NHS has been recreated, this is held by David Nicholson.

Previous permanent secretaries:

Chief professional officers

The department has six chief professional officers who provide it with expert knowledge and also advise the Ministers, other government departments and the Prime Minister. The Chief Medical Officer and Chief Nursing Officer are also directors of the department's board.

  • Chief Medical Officer for England (CMO) — Professor Dame Sally Davies, appointed in 2011.
  • Chief Nursing Officer (CNO) — Christine Beasley CBE, appointed in 2004.
  • Chief Scientific Officer (CSO) — Professor Sue Hill OBE, appointed in 2002.
  • Chief Dental Officer for England (CDO) — Barry Cockcroft, appointed in 2006.
  • Chief Health Professions Officer (CHPO) — Karen Middleton, appointed in 2007.
  • Chief Pharmaceutical Officer — Dr Keith William Ridge, appointed in 2006.


Quarry House: a DH building shared with the Department for Work and Pensions at Quarry Hill, Leeds (known locally as 'The Pink Palace' and 'The Kremlin')

Introduction of user charges for NHS services

The publication of Professor Lord Darzi's review of the NHS[4] prompted criticism of the government and the department of health for paving the way for user charging,[5] and so contradicting the NHS Plan 2000 which stated that "user charges are unfair and inequitable in they increase the proportion of funding from the unhealthy, old and poor compared with the healthy, young and wealthy".[6] The report also introduces the concept of 'personal budgets'.

Fragmentation of NHS services

Darzi's report[4] splits previously integrated services into 'core', 'additional' and 'enhanced' services, which critics say will lead to abandoning the open-ended duty of care on which the NHS was founded.[5]

"Superbugs" and PFI

Fatal outbreaks of antibiotic-resistant bacteria ("superbugs"), such as Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and Clostridium difficile, in NHS hospitals[7] has led to criticism of the DH's decision to outsource cleaning via private finance initiative contracts as "cutting corners on cleaning".[8]

A "Deep Clean" initiative announced by the Department of Health was criticised by infection control experts and by the Lancet as a gimmick which failed to address the causes of in-hospital infections,[9] by the firms doing the work as an attempt to avoid paying for regular better cleaning,[10] and by NHS managers as ineffective.[10]

It also attracted criticism because only a quarter of the £60m funding for the scheme actually went to hospitals, and because a number of hospitals missed the completion target,[11] and as of June 2008 one in four NHS trusts was not meeting the government's standards on hygiene.[12]


Its advice to primary care on prescribing drugs such as proton pump inhibitors has been criticised as wasteful.[13]

Medical Training

The DH has attracted criticism for its disastrous handling of the outcome of Modernising Medical Careers, in particular in the changes it made to the specialist training of doctors and the Medical Training Application Service (MTAS). These changes left "29,193 junior doctors from the UK and overseas... chasing 15,600 posts..."[14] and resulted in accusations that the DH had broken the law by refusing to reveal scores to candidates.[15] Ultimately there was a judicial review and a boycott of the system by senior doctors across the country.[16] MTAS was eventually scrapped[17] and Patricia Hewitt, the then Secretary of State for Health, resigned[clarification needed] following accusations that she had lied to the House of Commons over the system.[18] Even after the abolition of MTAS, anger among the medical profession continued, with the British Medical Association commenting of the DH response that "Not only is this response too late, it does not go far enough".[16]

The official government inquiry into MMC recommended that the responsibility for medical training be removed from the DH.[19]

Recurrent NHS Reorganisation

Successive DH ministerial teams have been criticised for repeated reorganisations of the NHS in England, where primary care commissioning responsibility in particular has been allocated to four different sets of organisations in the last ten years: PCGs, small area PCTs (e.g. covering a rural local authority district or part of a city), larger-area PCTs (e.g. covering a whole County), PCT clusters (e.g. quarter of London or South of Tyne and Wear) and the currently unspecified Clinical Commissioning Groups. The tendency to introduce each reorganisation before its predecessor has had time to settle down and generate improved performance has attracted censure amongst healthcare professions in the UK and beyond, including reference to the ironic concept of 'redisorganization'.[20] Andrew Lansley's promise before the 2010 general election not to impose top-down reorganisation, followed by the instigation from ministerial level of one of the most fundamental NHS reorganisations yet envisaged, has generated especially widespread opprobrium, although some commentators have also suggested that this is to some extenet completing the job started under the Blair administration.

Information technology

In recent years the Department of Health[21] and the NHS have come under considerable scrutiny for its use of IT.[22] Since being elected to power in 1997 the Labour government has sought to modernise the NHS through the introduction of IT. Although the policy is correct in aim, many claim its execution is lacking.[23]

In September 2008 a new leadership team was established, CIO for Health, Christine Connelly, and director of programme and system delivery Martin Bellamy. Previous CIO Richard Granger was believed to have been the most highly paid civil servant in the UK and was a controversial figure.[24] Connelly left the DoH for a position in the Cabinet Office in June 2009 and was replaced by Tim Donohoe and Carol Clarke.

Connelly's role is to "deliver the Department's overall information strategy and integrating leadership across the NHS", according to the DoH's website. That strategy, known as the National Programme for IT,[25] is intended to do nothing less than revolutionise NHS information workflow and is costed at about £12.7bn. The success or otherwise of Connelly's reign will be based on her promise to end delays of electronic medical records. She has said that if there is not clear progress by November 2009, a new plan could be hatched.

On the eve of the departure of Fujitsu as an outsourcing partner, Connelly said in April 2009 that she would open up sourcing to competition at "acute" sights in the south of England and offer toolkits by March 2010 to allow more local configuration of systems.[26]

In January 2009, MPs criticised DH for its confidentiality agreement with key supplier CSC and in March the Department was admonished by the Information Commissioner for its records management. In May 2011, Prime Minister David Cameron announced that he was considering scrapping the project.[27]

2010-11 Staffing cuts

In response to Government spending reduction targets following the 2008-9 international financial crisis and subsequent recession, DH in common with several other Government Departments resorted to large-scale staffing reductions. In order to minimise redundancy costs, the predominant impact was upon DH staff not employed through a traditional civil service 'headcount' contract, with a resultantly emphasised effect upon more recent or innovative work-streams dependent upon seconded or externally hosted staff. This has attracted criticism from several of the professional and patient communities of interest concerned, for instance as regards the impact upon Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT)[28] and the withdrawal of the practical assistance available to the NHS and local authorities via the National Support Teams.


Most health policy in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland is devolved to the department's counterparts:

A number of health issues are, however, wholly or partly reserved to Westminster:

Scotland [29]

Northern Ireland [30]

In Northern Ireland, abortion law is a criminal justice matter and is devolved.[31]


Under the Welsh devolution settlement, specific policy areas are transferred to the National Assembly for Wales rather than reserved to Westminster. As the distinction between Government and actual health services is seen as less pronounced than in England, the main source of information about current developments is NHS Wales.

See also


  1. ^ Arm's length bodies of the Department of Health
  2. ^ "Health Departments". The National Archives. Retrieved 2006-11-07. 
  3. ^ Cabinet Office List of Government Departments and Ministers: Department of Health
  4. ^ a b Professor Lord Darzi KBE (2008-06-30). "High Quality Health Care For All" (pdf). The Department of Health. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  5. ^ a b Allyson Pollock (2008-07-01). "Lord Darzi's report paves the way for Labour to charge for NHS care". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  6. ^ "The NHS Plan: a plan for investment, a plan for reform". The Department of Health. Retrieved 2008-07-03. 
  7. ^ "Labour hails fall in MRSA cases". BBC news. 2005-03-07. Retrieved 2008-02-28. 
  8. ^ "NHS trust warned over hygiene breaches". London: The Telegraph. 2008-02-07. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  9. ^ Thelancet, (2007). "The traditional white coat: goodbye, or au revoir?". Lancet 370 (9593): 1102. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(07)61487-1. PMID 17905145. 
  10. ^ a b "Hospital deep cleaning under fire". BBC News. 2008-01-14. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  11. ^ "Hospital deep clean target missed". BBC News. 2008-03-29. Retrieved 2008-03-30. 
  12. ^ "NHS trusts 'failing on hygiene'". BBC news. 2008-06-15. Retrieved 2008-06-16. 
  13. ^ Andrew Moore (2000-10-06). "Waste in the NHS: the problem, its size, and how we can tackle it". Balliol College, Oxford. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  14. ^ "Johnson: Recruitment reform bungled". Channel 4 News. 2007-07-25. Retrieved 2008-09-02. 
  15. ^ Hawkes, Nigel (2007-05-22). "Health Department ‘broke law over doctors’ job test scores’". London: Times Online. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  16. ^ a b "Review into doctor recruitment". BBC news. 2007-03-07. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  17. ^ John Carvel (2007-05-16). "Hewitt backs down in junior doctor row". London: The Guardian. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  18. ^ "Hewitt 'misled Commons' over MTAS". Channel 4. 2007-05-19. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  19. ^ Nigel Hawkes, Health Editor (2008-01-08). "Department of Health ‘must be stripped of doctors’ training role’". London: The Times. Retrieved 2008-03-26. 
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^
  28. ^
  29. ^ Scotland Act 1998, Schedule 5, Part II
  30. ^ Northern Ireland Act 1998, Schedule 3
  31. ^ House of Commons, Written answers and statements, 13 July 2009

External links

Video clips

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • United Kingdom general election, 2010 — United Kingdom general election, 2010[1] 2005 ← members …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom agency worker law — refers to the law which regulates people s work through employment agencies in the United Kingdom. Though statistics are disputed, there are currently between half a million and one and a half million agency workers in the UK, and probably over… …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom — a kingdom in NW Europe, consisting of Great Britain and Northern Ireland: formerly comprising Great Britain and Ireland 1801 1922. 58,610,182; 94,242 sq. mi. (244,100 sq. km). Cap.: London. Abbr.: U.K. Official name, United Kingdom of Great… …   Universalium

  • United Kingdom — Infobox Country conventional long name = United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland common name = the United Kingdom symbol type = Royal coat of arms map caption = map caption |countryprefix=the |region=on the European continent… …   Wikipedia

  • Department of Health, Social Services and Public Safety — Northern Ireland This article is part of the series: Politics and government of Northern Ireland …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom company law — Beside the River Thames, the City of London is a global financial centre. Within the Square Mile, the London Stock Exchange lies at the heart of the United Kingdom s corporations. United Kingdom company law is the body of rules that concern… …   Wikipedia

  • Department of Health and Social Security — DHSS redirects here. For the Serbian political party, see Christian Democratic Party of Serbia. The Department of Health and Social Security (commonly known as the DHSS) was a ministry of the British government in existence for twenty years from… …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom coalition government (1916–1922) — David Lloyd George, Prime Minister 1916–1922. The Coalition Government of David Lloyd George came to power in the United Kingdom in December 1916, replacing the earlier wartime coalition under H.H. Asquith, which had been held responsible for… …   Wikipedia

  • United Kingdom coalition government (1940–1945) — Members of the War Cabinet are in bold face. Office Name Party Dates Notes Prime Minister, Minister of Defence and First Lord of the Treasury Winston Churchill Conservative 10 May 1940 Member of War Cabinet; also Leader of the House of Commons… …   Wikipedia

  • Health and safety crime in the United Kingdom — In the United Kingdom there are several crimes that arise from failure to take care of health, safety and welfare at work.Offences under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974All offences under the Act are triable summarily in the… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.