The Department of Health insists ministers "can and do grip" the NHS system when they need to.
Conservative public health minister Jane Ellison was recorded at a private meeting saying the reforms had given away control of the NHS- a claim Labour used to accuse ministers of "washing their hands of responsibility" for the health service.
A Department of Heath spokesman said:
Giving operational control for the day-to-day running of services to doctors was the right decision - but we have always been clear that ministers are responsible for the NHS, and we are proud of its performance in challenging circumstances.
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