Health Secretary Matt Hancock has been warned against trying to take “excessive” powers to control the NHS in England.

Chris Hopson, the chief executive of NHS Providers representing NHS trusts, said any new powers assumed by ministers must be “very tightly defined”.

A Government White Paper published earlier this year would give the Health Secretary greater control over NHS England as part of a wide-reaching reorganisation of health and social care.

It comes amid reported tensions in the early days of the coronavirus pandemic between ministers and senior officials at NHS England which has been operationally independent since 2013.

Giving evidence to the Commons Health and Social Care Committee, Mr Hopson said the Government had yet to set out its detailed proposals.

However, he stressed it was “absolutely fundamental” that the operational independence of the service was maintained in certain key areas.

“It can’t be right for a secretary of state just to stop on their own initiative a very carefully and well worked up local configuration plan because he or she is coming under inappropriate pressure from let’s say a fellow Cabinet minister or a speaker of the House of Commons,” he said.

“It would be inappropriate for a secretary of state to direct that whole services should be effectively farmed out to the private sector. It would be wrong for the secretary of state to have the power to hire and fire NHS chairs and chief executives.

“It would also be inappropriate for them to have the power to give in to very extensive lobby by single condition pressure groups to overturn Nice’s (the regulator) guidance on how drugs should be used.

“We just need to be very careful not to allow single, individual politicians – who inevitably, quite understandably, have got party political interests – excessive power over exactly how the NHS operates day-to-day,” he said.