Andrew Lansley has written the NHS Commissioning Board setting out its “strategic priorities”, with an apparent aim to ensure it devolves power to clinical commissioning groups.

The letter to the NHSCB chair Malcolm Grant, obtained by HSJ, sets out its priorities until April 2013, when it takes on its full powers.

The strategic objectives are:

  • Transferring power to local organisations;
  • Establishing the commissioning landscape;
  • Developing specific commissioning and financial capabilities; and
  • Developing excellent relationships.

The letter follows concern the NHSCB may attempt to retain more control over CCGs than intended by the health secretary.

The letter says Mr Lansley intends to publish minutes of future accoutability meetings with Professor Grant.

It says: “At the heard of our shared agenda for the NHS is a commitment to achieving a fundamental shift of power from national and regional organisations to CCGs, Health and Wellbeing Boards, local providers and patients.

“The challenge for the authority is to ensure that preparations for the board make a reality of this commitment. The process of decentralisation of decision-making and promoting the autonomy of CCGs must be embedded within the culture of the board.

“The first - and overarching - objective is to design the board so that it transfers power to local organisations.”

The letter says CCGs should have “assumed liberty”.

It also says the board should play a part in creating a “level playing field” for providers and pursuing integration of health and social care services.

The letter has been welcomed by the NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care, who are working together under the banner NHS Clinical Commissioners to represent CCGs. It is expected that further details of the new membership organisation will be released in the near future.

NAPC chair Charles Alessi said in a statement: “We at NHS CC warmly the welcome the clarity and explicit nature of Andrew Lansley’s letter to the [NHSCB].”

Alliance chair Michael Dixon added: “The letter puts down a number of critical markers for which the NHS CC coalition has been actively lobbying.” He said the aims in the letter were “fundamental to the transformation that is to take place over the coming months and years”.