The NHS Commissioning Board will have access to funding from the public health budget to commission “appropriate” programmes, the government has said.
The Department of Health’s “update and way forward” document states that, despite the transfer of the bulk of public health commissioning decisions to local authorities, the NHS will “continue to play an important role in commissioning and providing public health services”.
Part of the budget would be transferred to the board to fund the commissioning of “specific public health programmes”.
This includes immunisation and screening programmes including health visiting, and children’s public health services from pregnancy to age five.
The government estimated in November’s public health white paper that £4bn or more – equivalent to around 4 per cent of the current NHS budget – would be ringfenced for public health in 2013.
The policy update says the government is “committed” to ensuring local authorities are “adequately funded for their new responsibilities” but notes it is “continuing work to establish the future size” of the ringfenced public health budget.
It reaffirms the intention that public health grants will be made to upper and unitary local authorities for the first time in 2013-14, adding that the government plans to provide shadow allocations for 2012-13 by the end of this year.
Detailed work will be done “over the coming months” on developing the health premium – incentive payments for local authorities, tied to performance indicators within a public health outcomes framework. Details of the outcomes framework itself are due in the autumn.
The update also confirms that the creation of Public Health England has been put back a year to April 2013, when it will formally take on its functions. The government says it intends to have a chief executive in place 12 months before then.