The NHS Commissioning Assembly is to be closed down with immediate effect, HSJ has learned.

The assembly was established by NHS England in 2012, as it and clinical commissioning groups prepared for their roles under the coalition government’s health reforms. It included senior CCG leaders and NHS England’s senior commissioners, and was meant to ensure groups were involved in decision making.

Peter Melton

Peter Melton said the decision was expected because of changes in the commissioning landscape

CCG leaders were today told it was being shut down and all future joint work with CCGs would be through NHS Clinical Commissioners, the independent representative group. This would ensure there was “effective CCG representation on all relevant steering and oversight groups”, according to a letter from NHS England commissioning strategy director Ian Dodge.

North East Lincolnshire CCG chief clinical officer Peter Melton, who was co-chair of the assembly, indicated the move was expected because of emerging changes to the commissioning landscape, such as delegating responsibility to accountable providers and local authorities.

He said: “Some of the new commissioning relationships will move beyond CCGs and the relationship between CCGs and NHS England.

“The challenge for the system is how we now support those commissioning models in order to keep pace with the new vanguard models and the new models of provision.”

All the assembly’s functions will be carried out by NHS Clinical Commissioners, Mr Dodge’s letter said, and there are plans to build on its steering groups, which focus on particular policy areas.

Aylesbury Vale CCG clinical chair Graham Jackson, who was involved in organising the assembly and is also a Clinical Commissioners board member, said: “The [assembly] was absolutely the right thing to do at the point it was proposed and set up. I feel the move to NHSCC taking on the functions is the correct way forward. NHSCC has grown in parallel and provides a mature, fully representative voice.”

Bassetlaw CCG chair Steve Kell, who is a co-chair of Clinical Commissioners, said in the statement to CCGs today: “The role that NHSCC now plays in the health system to represent our members, providing CCGs with a strong independent voice, means that we have the systems to be able to provide effective and genuine two way engagement between the CCG community and NHS England.”

Mr Dodge said: “As leaders of the commissioning system, NHS England must work hand in glove with CCGs to ensure policy is fit for purpose and ready for implementation. I look forward to working with NHS Clinical Commissioners to ensure we make that happen.”

Paul Husselbee was Southend CCG chief clinical officer until November last year, and had continued to be involved in the assembly’s working group on care quality. However, he told HSJ: “Unfortunately, due to further reorganisation it has not been possible to continue to be involved in the quality agenda at this level. 

“We are in danger of losing many excellent clinicians and leaders with experience who can make a difference if help and encouragement is not given to those who want to be involved. I am sure that if every patient contact in the NHS is of ‘high quality’ it will go a long way towards improving the financial position but above all will deliver better patient satisfaction and improved outcomes.”