Changes to Health Act will ease joint commissioning

The Department of Health is proposing changes to the Health Act to “reduce burdens” on CCGs and ease the process of joint commissioning.

In a letter sent recently to CCG leaders, the Department of Health (DH) outlined proposals to amend the Health Act, reducing legislation to make it easier for CCGs to jointly commission or reconfigure services across large areas.

The DH has recognised that, since the reforms of April 2013, it has been “difficult to design services that cut across both CCG and NHS England commissioned services because it was not possible to form a binding joint decision making body.” They have vowed to “reduce burdens” on CCGs and ease the process of joint commissioning, which could prove beneficial as commissioners struggle to maintain services on limited budgets.

To avoid amending the law, the DH is proposing a legislative reform order to the Health Act 2012 to enable CCGs to delegate decisions to joint committees, work across CCGs or with NHS England to make contract changes and commission services.

This goes some way to answering the recent calls from CCGs to have greater responsibility over primary care services, as the amendment would make it easier for commissioners to make decisions that spanned primary, secondary and community care, as well as making area-wide changes to services.

Ros Roughton, NHS national commissioning director, said the changes would allow CCGs to utilise their budgets more appropriately to achieve the “best outcomes to the population”, and hinted that the NHS would be making its own announcements about the involvement of CCGs in primary care commissioning in the coming weeks.

She conceded that, “given that CCGs are led by clinicians and particularly GPs it makes a lot of sense” for an increased involvement in the commissioning of primary care services, but stressed that the national body would remain responsible for the commissioning of core GP services.  

The DH’s proposed changes will now enter a consultation process lasting until 7 January, with a view to amending the legislation in the first part of 2014.