Government updates timetable for NHS reform

The government has revealed its updated timetable for its NHS reform programme as it begins to drive through a number of changes to the plans.

In its full response to the NHS Future Forum’s recommendations, the government said it aimed to strike a balance between maintaining momentum and allowing more time to recognise that some organisations may not be ready to take on their full responsibilities on the current timetable.

It said PCTs will still be scrapped in April 2013, but it said consortia will not be authorised to take on any part of the commissioning budget in their local area until they are ready and willing to do so.

It said by April 2013, GP practices will be members of either an authorised clinical commissioning group, or a ‘shadow’ commissioning group.

Where a commissioning group is ready and willing, it will be able to take on commissioning responsibility earlier, it said. But where a group is not yet ready, the local arms of the NHS Commissioning Board will commission on its behalf.

The government has proposed to establish the NHS Commissioning Board as soon as possible, with the board being set up in shadow form as a special health authority in October 2011.

It will then be established formally as an independent statutory body by October 2012 to start to authorise clinical commissioning groups and carry out preparatory functions, but will only take on its full responsibilities from April 2013.

The 10 SHAs will remain in place as statutory bodies until April 2013, but they will be formed into a ‘smaller number of clusters’ later this year for ‘management purposes’, the government said.

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