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Arm's length bodies

  • Last modified date:
    3 March 2011

At national level, but at 'arm's length' from DH, a network of organisations have been created to help support and manage the health and social care system.

As stand-alone national organisations sponsored by the Department of Health, Arm's length bodies (ALBs) work closely with the local NHS, social care services, and other ALBs to carry out specific functions. In DH they regulate the system, improve standards, protect public welfare, and support local services.

ALBs vary in size but normally have boards, employ staff and publish accounts. They are accountable to the Department of Health and sometimes directly to Parliament.

Most ALBs also receive substantial funding from the Department of Health. ALB-style agencies are an important feature of other major health systems around the world.

Our ALBs operate in three key areas:

 • regulating the health and social care system and workforce

• establishing national standards and protecting patients and the public

• providing central services to the NHS.

Arm’s Length Bodies Support Unit

The Unit has been established to help ALBs deliver high quality, value for money services aligned closely to Ministers' health and social care priorities.

Arm’s length bodies review

Bureaucracy will be cut and the functions of several organisations will be streamlined, following a review of arm’s length bodies (ALBs), published by Health Secretary Andrew Lansley on 26 July 2010. In line with the wider reforms set out in the White Paper, Equity and excellence: liberating the NHS, the Department of Health’s ALB sector will be transformed to cut cost and remove duplication and burdens on the NHS.

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