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Editor's blog Tuesday 12 October 2010: The answer is 30 administrative NHS bodies in England. Now what's the question?

The answer, it seems, is thirty organisations across the English NHS.

The question is less straightforward to discern, but the answer certainly seems to be thirty organisations across the English NHS.

This information is drawn from my story yesterday looking at Slide 29 of Sir Philip Green’s report for the Cabinet Office into (in)efficient government purchasing.

That slide is pretty clearly about the DH: it gets the number of SHAs right (10), although it slightly misses on the correct number of PCTs

I asked the Cabinet Office to confirm that the slide did indeed described the DH, and received this reply from a spokesperson: “Sir Philip does not feel that it is constructive to single out individual departments”. If the answer is ‘no’ to such a question, you tend to get a ‘no’.

Thirty of what?

If this is the case, that the centre thinks 30 buildings are required around England for DH / NHS “administration”, what might that administrative body be?

In light of Liberatin’ Lansley’s repeated calls for the National Commissioning Board to be light and lean, it would be a major surprise if there were a plan for it to have 30 regional offices.  That would smack of being heavy and huge.

It would also smack of a system that proposed to do performance management to GP commissioning consortia in a highly interventionist manner.

So I think that is probably not the thirty. I certainly hope it is not.

What might be less surprising is if 30 was the management number for the transition period, with PCTs merging their management (as is currently happening in London) and co-locating with SHAs during the wind-down.

That would require the PCT management functions to merge on a ’five to one’ basis.

Arguably, that merged 30 primary strategic care health authority trusts (PSCHATs) creates a scale at which you could create meaningful support groups for GP consortia commissioning, each serving populations averaging 2 million.

Given Edwards’ Law Of No Previously Used Number, 30 is available for NHS use – perilously close to the original 28 of strategic health authorities, but just different enough.

Nice, round number, too. What’s not to like?