“Clinical senates” will be established to advise on commissioning in the NHS and will play a role in the authorisation of commissioning groups, the government has announced.

A policy statement released in response to the NHS Future Forum’s report, published yesterday, committed to establishing the bodies. It said doctors, nurses and other professionals could come together in clinical senates to give advice to commissioners “which we expect clinical commissioning groups to follow”. 

The reforms set out in the Health Bill have been criticised by professional bodies for not including the full range of clinicians in the commissioning of services. The NHS Future Forum’s report yesterday recommended the establishment of clinical senates.

It said: “Our intention [in recommending clinical senates] is not to suggest a layer of bureaucracy but to provide a forum for cross specialty clinical expertise, collaboration and advice…

“To support the better integration of services, they should include public health specialists and adult and child social care experts.”

The senates could also have a “role in potential service reconfigurations”, according to the Future Forum.

The government’s statement said clinical senates, as well as health and wellbeing boards, will have a “formal role” in the authorisation of clinical commissioning groups.

The duties of commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board to seek advice from a “full range of health professionals where relevant” will be strengthened, it said. It also announced that Monitor will have a new duty to “obtain appropriate clinical advice”.

It also said existing clinical networks will be retained and strengthened. These, as well as clinical senates “will be hosted by the NHS Commissioning Board; they will not be organisations or new forms of bureaucracy”, it said.