Many CCGs already hold budgets, with around £29bn devolved to the groups to date. But health secretary Andrew Lansley said this was the first time the DH had 'specifically identified funding for PCTs to delegate to prospective CCGs for patient care'.
The DH said clinicians should use the money directly on local services that best meet their patients’ clinical needs and to prevent unnecessary hospital admissions. The additional funding will not be available for CCGs to spend on running costs.
It suggested CCGs could use the funding to provide more effective cover for urgent care services, improve out-of-hours services for patients or extend GP practice opening times.
But CCGs must inform the DH about how they intend to spend their share of the cash by the middle of February, the DH has said. Any funding they are unable to find a use for should be returned to the department.
Decisions on how to use the funding will be made by CCGs, but must be signed off by PCT clusters, the DH said.
The DH said the funding had become available because of 'good management' of its central budgets.
North East Essex CCG chief executive Dr Shane Gordon said: 'This funding will ensure that the quality and speed of health services in our area is maintained during the winter. As a local GP, I work with patients and colleagues in our CCG; together we plan our health services to deliver the best possible care to our population. The extra funds are a welcome boost during a demanding part of the year.'