Under the national plan for the NHS, due next month, the 'supertrusts' will be empowered to take over social services from local authorities and to offer streamlined services to prevent the elderly taking up hospital beds unneccessarily.
The health secretary has also asked the Commission for Health Improvement, the NHS inspectorate, to investigate the discharge arrangements and readmission rates of the hospitals it visits. The commission starts work today and will publish its agenda of work.
'This is precisely the sort of radical reform the healthcare system needs,' Mr Milburn has told the cabinet. 'New thinking and not just new money.'