CCGs to co-commission the ‘bulk’ of specialised services

The head of NHS England’s specialised commissioning taskforce has said that Clinical Commissioning Groups could be asked to co-commission “the bulk” of NHS England’s £14bn specialised services budget.

Dr Paul Watson explained that such an approach could lead to better designed pathways for patients and allow CCGs to“see what is being spent on behalf of their local population. It’s simply not right that essential services such as radiotherapy, cardiac surgery and chemotherapy should be commissioned without CCGs being at the heart of the process.”

His comments come following a survey by the Specialised Healthcare Alliance which indicated that the overwhelming majority of clinicians and patient groups involved in specialised commissioning do not want responsibility for commissioning their service to be handed to CCGs.

Of the 101 respondents, 90% favoured their service areas staying within specialised commissioning. This rose to 97% in clinical reference groups, which were established by NHS England to develop national specifications for specialised services.

Responding to Dr Watson’s comments, Alliance director John Murray said the “key consideration” for specialised commissioning was where the “budget and responsibility lie”. He said: “If NHS England retains both but works closely with CCGs – as should always have been the case – so much the better. If the waters become muddied in that regard, then we would start to have concerns.”

Further details of the arrangements are due to be unveiled in NHS England’s planning guidance for 2015-16, which is expected to be released in early December. This would “set out the financial and organisational aspects of involving CCGs more fully” in commissioning specialised services, according to a paper presented to NHS England’s board meeting last week.

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