At the same time the existing 145 district health authorities are to be telescoped into the 90 family health service authorities which run general practice, dental and pharmacy services in order to provide one body buying both hospital and primary care.
The changes, which Mrs Bottomley claimed would leave NHS management 'simpler and sharper' while providing 'substantial savings in management costs', were attacked by David Blunkett, Labour's health spokesman, as centralising and removing public accountability. They would offer further chaos rather than sensible planning in the NHS, he said.
Mrs Bottomley argued that the regional authorities had a role in the 'old hands-on style' NHS, but were not needed now.
'Substantial savings' would be made in the estimated pounds 200m cost of regions and the existing executive, she said, but she could not give any figures.
The announcement brought a string of worries from doctors', dentists' and nurses' organisations that their representation would be lost at regional level, but a welcome from health authorities and trusts.