Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg has given the clearest signal yet the transition to commissioning consortia will be slowed down, with other structures remaining in place “where GPs are not yet ready” to take over.

In a speech at University College London Hospital today Mr Clegg also confirmed the government’s Health Bill will go through the Commons committee for a second time. This could potentially delay it becoming law until spring next year, HSJ understands.

Mr Clegg said: “We are going to take our time to make sure we get this right… Doctors should only take on that [commissioning] responsibility when they are ready and willing.

“We aren’t going to just sweep away NHS managers. NHS managers will continue doing the commissioning in areas where GPs are not yet ready. We are going to do it [the transition] in a careful way.”

NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson told HSJ in February some consortia would not take on full commissioning responsibilities from April 2013 - when, under current proposals, PCTs are due to be abolished.

But HSJ understands senior NHS managers are now looking at “scenarios” including PCT clusters remaining in place beyond April that date to act as the “commissioner of last resort”. Another “scenario” is for the NHS Commissioning Board to take on that role, employing more staff at a local level.

Mr Clegg also suggested there would be changes to Monitor’s currently proposed new duties, which include “to protect and promote the interests of people who use health care services… by promoting competition where appropriate, and through regulation where necessary”.

He said: “Monitor’s main duties will be to promote the needs of patients using collaboration and competition as a means to that end.”

The announcements come as a 40-strong review group called the NHS Future Forum, mainly NHS staff, examines the government’s reform proposals. It is expected to report with proposals for changes in coming weeks.