The government is preparing to significantly shorten and simplify its mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board, HSJ has learned. It comes in the wake of widespread criticism of the draft version.

A consultation on the draft mandate, which contains 22 objectives for the board, closed yesterday.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence and the NHS Confederation are among those to have criticised the document.

Concerns have been raised that it contains too many objectives and is not understandable to the public. Proposals for measuring achievement against objectives, which are set out in a 600-page technical document, have been described as over-complicated.

HSJ understands new health secretary Jeremy Hunt is open to the mandate being simplified and is keen to ensure the publication date does not slip. The mandate is expected to be published in the autumn.

One senior source said: “I do understand that it will be a lot shorter.” Another added: “We are going to stick with the timing on the mandate so that people know what is in it in time for the planning round. [Mr Hunt] is open to simplifying it.”

In its consultation response, NICE said the draft mandate lacked “coherence” and warned measuring progress against the majority of the objectives would be a “major challenge”.

The current mandate has eight objectives relating to the NHS Outcomes Framework and a further 14 covering areas including patient choice, information quality and integration.

NHS Confederation deputy chief executive David Stout told HSJ the organisation was not “ultra critical” of the draft as a “tricky balance” had to be found between overloading the mandate with detail and putting so little in that it had “no teeth”.

He added: “Jeremy Hunt is going to have to feel comfortable he’s got that balance right.”

The King’s Fund described the majority of objectives as “general and vague”. Director of policy Anna Dixon said the mandate should focus on the NHS outcomes framework, setting baseline performance measures for improvement and stretch targets in a few priority areas.

She said the Department of Health seemed to have “lost sight” of what the mandate was for and should make sure it did not duplicate requirements set out elsewhere, such as duties around choice that are covered in procurement guidance.