A formal national group for commissioning leaders launched today will help prevent NHS policy being developed only by the “usual suspects”, officials have said.

The NHS Commissioning Assembly is made up of all clinical commissioning group clinical leads and the directors of the NHS Commissioning Board, from all its directorates and national, regional and local levels.

The group was due to be formally launched at its first meeting today. It has been developed jointly by the board and CCGs.

The assembly will be a forum for all commissioners to exchange ideas and discuss relevant national policies, particularly decisions made by the board.

It is intended to help CCGs and the commissioning board work well together, and to jointly lead the new commissioning system, which will take on its full powers in April.

Commissioning board commissioning development director Dame Barbara Hakin spoke exclusively about the commissioning assembly to HSJ ahead of the event.

She said one of the most important aims was for a large number of CCG leaders to be involved in its work. She said the assembly would provide information and technology to enable leaders to easily communicate with the right people on each issue.

Dame Barbara said: “There has been a bit of a tendency in the past for the usual suspects to feed into lots of central work.

“This [assembly] gives us a vehicle to get the broadest input. Our test will be how strong and vibrant this is.” She said it would help “advise and build consensus on a broad range of areas”.

Several working groups have been set up within the assembly on particular issues such as finance and quality. Topics for yesterday’s discussion were expected to include service reconfiguration and CCGs’ allocations and assurance regime.

Ros Roughton, the board’s commissioning systems and strategy director who is overseeing work on the assembly, said it would “create shared leadership, co-produce national strategy, embed principles for working together, and connect leaders”.

She said: “Working together we will have a greater chance of maximising the impact of commissioning.”