In Liberating the NHS, the DH announced its intention to radically reduce the number of arm’s length bodies. Readers will recall that a consultation on proposals to transfer functions from the HFEA and HTA took place between the end of June and the end of September 2012.

The proposals were:

  • To transfer all functions of the HFEA and HTA to the Care Quality Commission (CQC), with the exception of HFEA research-related functions that would transfer to the Health Research Authority (HRA); the HFEA and HTA then to be abolished
  • As above but with some of the non-research functions being transferred elsewhere, or
  • HFEA and HTA to retain their functions but deliver further efficiencies

Of the 109 responses, 75 per cent disagreed with the proposal to transfer functions to the CQC and HRA. It was felt that the HFEA and HTA had developed considerable expertise in highly specialised fields which the CQC was not currently well placed to take on without loss of public confidence, decrease in the quality of regulation and disruption to business. Although it was recognised that the work of the HRA would be important in streamlining regulation and governance in health research, the overall message was that the anticipated savings did not merit the risks associated with the proposed transfers.

As a result, the DH has decided not to pursue a transfer of functions at the present time. The HFEA and HTA will remain as separate statutory bodies but with the introduction of further efficiencies. The DH will, accordingly, arrange an immediate review of how the two bodies carry out their regulatory functions with a view to reducing the regulatory burden. The review will give serious consideration to the merger of the HFEA and HTA. The DH will also include the two bodies in its Shared Services Programme, with a view to streamlining their non-specialist functions.