The NHS will be ordered to focus on changing patients’ lifestyles as well as treating illnesses under new Government plans – which could see ministers seize control of healthcare.

Ministers are concerned about rising levels of disease linked to poor diet and lack of exercise, such as Type 2 diabetes and obesity, a leaked document shows.

It acknowledges smoking rates have fallen in recent years but warns the UK’s growing and ageing population is suffering from more long-term conditions.

Health chiefs will be tasked with not only treating diseases such as cancer, but also helping to prevent them by encouraging people to become more active.

The draft policy paper, leaked to Health Policy Insight, also reveals Boris Johnson has plans to reverse controversial reforms of NHS England which were brought about under the 2012 Health and Social Care Act. 

Ministers reportedly plan to centralise decision-making in the service and reduce the role of the private sector, giving the Government power to block the closure of hospitals and overrule bosses in what could be the biggest health reform for a decade.  

Former Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt today said the reforms could be a ‘positive’ step towards ‘joined-up care.’

The NHS will be ordered to focus on changing patients’ lifestyles as well as treating illnesses under new Government plans

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Last year was the first year in history where, across the world, there were more over-65s than under-fives, so we are all having to deal with this big change in our health provision of the growth in older people and what that means is you need a lot more joined up care.’

‘The structures need to be improved to make that possible and I think that’s what these reforms are intended to do, so I think they could be very positive.’

He later added on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme that the reforms needed to include ‘a proper accountability mechanism’ similar to that of Ofsted as a schools inspector.    

‘How we make sure that the NHS continues to be held accountable for these huge sums of public money is something that, I am sure, people will want to ask,’ he said.

Dr Fiona Lemmens, chair of the Liverpool NHS Clinical Commissioning Group, told Times Radio it would be a ‘challenge’ for NHS reforms to be considered at the same time as the service deals with the coronavirus pandemic.

She added: ‘We should always be looking to improve. So continuous improvement is what I would be aiming for rather than massive overhauls.’

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow health secretary, told City AM: ‘Ministers need to explain why reorganisation is the pressing priority when 190,000 people are waiting more than 12 months for treatment, and cancer survival rates need to be radically improved.’ 

The plans will be complemented with separate measures to restrict junk food advertising and putting calorie labels on alcohol.

It could also give Government the power to put flouride in water to help prevent tooth decay, something only councils were able to do in the past.

It will return some powers from Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary

Ministers are becoming increasingly frustrated with local leaders resistant to adding flouride due to budgetary constraints, The Times reports.

The white paper – which would see forced NHS privatisation scrapped – says the health and care system must continue to ‘adapt and evolve’ to meet the challenges of modern life, including Covid-19.

It reveals local NHS services will be ordered to work more closely with councils to better join up health and social care, as they have during the pandemic.

The document says: ‘One in three patients admitted to hospital as an emergency has five or more health conditions, up from one in ten a decade ago.

‘While smoking rates may be decreasing, diabetes, obesity, dementia and mental health issues are on the rise.’

It calls for care that ‘focuses not just on treating particular conditions, but also on lifestyles, on healthy behaviours and prevention’.

Health chiefs will be tasked with not only treating diseases such as cancer, but also helping to prevent them by encouraging people to become more active. Pictured: NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens

Health chiefs will be tasked with not only treating diseases such as cancer, but also helping to prevent them by encouraging people to become more active. Pictured: NHS Chief Executive Simon Stevens

New legislation will scrap red tape surrounding repeated tendering for contracts, so more time and money can be redirected to frontline services.

It will return some powers from Sir Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, to Matt Hancock, the Health Secretary.

The document says: ‘A merged NHS England and NHS Improvement will be placed on a statutory footing and will be designated as NHS England.

‘This will be accompanied by enhanced powers of direction for the Government over the newly merged body.’

The paper, leaked to Health Policy Insight, says the Covid pandemic has demonstrated why better links between health and care are ‘essential’.

It adds: ‘Our proposals will make permanent some of the innovations where Covid-19 has forced the system to improvise new and better ways of working.

‘Bureaucracy has a role to play but it should not stifle innovation. We will put pragmatism at the heart of the system.’ 

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said: ‘We do not comment on leaks.

‘The NHS set out the need for new legislation to support the changing health and care sector in the NHS Long Term Plan, and last summer the Health and Social Care Secretary outlined how we must apply the lessons of this pandemic as we continue to deliver this plan.

‘From tackling bureaucracy to driving forward the integration of health and care services, we are rightly considering where changes need to be made to help us build back better.

‘Full details will be set out in due course.’

An NHS spokesman said: ‘The NHS has come together to draw up practical proposals that will make it easier for those delivering health and care to work together to deliver the best possible care for patients, without some of the bureaucracy and fragmentation implicit in the 2012 Act.

‘These proposals were set out publicly in the NHS Long Term Plan in 2019 and further developed last year, drawing on what the best local health systems are already doing.’

Health and Social Care Act 2012: How Andrew Lansley’s reforms marked the most extensive reorganisation of the NHS to date 

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was introduced under David Cameron’s coalition government, pushed forward by then-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley.

The reforms, which look set to largely be reversed, were considered the ‘biggest revolution in the NHS since its foundation’, and were some of the coalition government’s most controversial.

The Act removed responsibility for healthcare from the Health Minister, which the post had carried since the inception of the NHS in 1948.

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was introduced under David Cameron's coalition government, pushed forward by then-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured)

The Health and Social Care Act 2012 was introduced under David Cameron’s coalition government, pushed forward by then-Health Secretary Andrew Lansley (pictured)

It abolished Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities, instead transferring between £60 billion and £80 billion of ‘commissioning’ from the abolished PCTs to several hundred Clinical Commissioning Groups.

These were partly run by GPs in England, but also opened the door to private service providers. 

The restructuring also created a new body, NHS England, which ran the health service, while healthy lifestyle programmes were handed to town halls.     

However, the reforms were met with significant opposition from opposition MPs and professional bodies representing healthcare workers.

In a letter to The Times, British Medical Association chairman Hamish Meldrum, Royal College of Nursing chief executive Peter Carter, and the heads of the Unison and Unite unions said the speed and scale of the reforms risked undermining the care of patients by putting cost before quality.