Hunt sets out priorities for NHS Commissioning Board

13 Nov 12
Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has published details of the NHS Commissioning Board, which takes on responsibility for the health service from next April.

By Richard Johnstone | 14 November 2012

Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt has published details of the NHS Commissioning Board, which takes on responsibility for the health service from next April.

Hospital ward

In a document for the board, The Mandate, the government sets out the powers, funding and priorities for the body, including targets for improvements between April 2013 and March 2015.

The board, which will operate as an executive non-departmental public body, has been set up following the government’s controversial NHS reforms, which are intended to provide greater choice in the health service.

It will be responsible for allocating resources across the NHS from 2013/14, as well as directly commissioning primary care services, such as GP practices, and some specialised services.

It will also have the power to approve the establishment of 212 Clinical Commissioning Groups, which will be responsible for commissioning other services locally from ‘any qualified provider’, under the Health and Social Care Act.

Tasks for the board, set out by Hunt, include enhancing the quality of life for people with long-term conditions and helping people to recover from illness or injury.

Through The Mandate, the NHS will also be measured on a number of main objectives. These include improving care for the elderly, a priority highlighted by Hunt at the Conservative Party Conference.

Patients will also be able to give feedback on the quality of their care, so others can then choose between hospitals. The Mandate also includes a target for patients to be able to book GP appointments online, as well as order repeat prescriptions over the internet, by 2015.

Funding for the board in its first year has also been confirmed in the document. It will have a revenue budget of more than £95bn in 2013/14 to distribute across the NHS, and will have £1.8bn to commission services itself, including dentistry.

Launching The Mandate, Hunt said: ‘Never in its long history has the NHS faced such rapid change in our health care needs, from caring for an older population, to managing the cost of better treatments, to seizing the opportunities of new technology.

‘This mandate is about giving the NHS the right priorities to deal with those challenges. By focusing on what matters to patients, and giving doctors and other professionals the freedom to deliver, we will make sure the NHS stays relevant to our needs and continues providing the best possible care for us all.’

Board chief executive Sir David Nicholson described The Mandate as ‘a major step on the road to the more liberated and innovative NHS that can be more responsive to its patients’. He said the reforms in the Health and Social Care Act gave staff and organisations in the NHS ‘a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ to do things differently’.

He added: ‘Make no mistake, the NHS will find this a challenging and stretching ask – and it comes against the most challenging financial environment the NHS has ever experienced. But I believe the goals are achievable. 

The Mandate avoids the danger of excessively prescribing the actions of health professionals. We in the NHS Commissioning Board want to ensure power in the NHS sits with those who are closest to the patients. Our role will be to work closely with local clinical leaders and provide the support they need. Our role is not to tell them what to do.’

The Foundation Trust Network and the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations also welcomed The Mandate. In a joint statement, the two bodies also announced a review of how NHS trusts and third sector organisations could contribute to the new instructions.

It will include best practice examples of NHS trusts and voluntary organisations working together and identify improvements both can make. The organisations aim to publish the joint report next spring.


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