The coming financial year will be a ‘transition’ period with few new national requirements so the NHS ‘can focus on core aspects’ such as financial sustainability and waiting time targets, NHS England has indicated.

The national commissioning body revealed its expectations of the planning process for 2015-16 in a board paper to be discussed at its meeting on Friday.

Planning guidance will be published in December, as in previous years, but will not “revisit in detail all of the priorities and commitments” in last year’s guidance, the paper said.

It said NHS England expected “the only major new requirement” to relate to “mental health access”, although it did not detail this requirement.

The paper said: “We propose to keep to a bare minimum planning requirements for 2015-16, so [clinical commissioning groups] and providers can focus on core aspects of improving quality, meeting NHS constitution commitments, and financial sustainability.”

“Following the general election in May 2015 the incoming government will, during the next parliament, set out its longer term programme and funding plans.”

The board paper said that “given this context of transition for 2015-16”, commissioner and provider plans would be a “refresh” of the second year of the two year operational plans which were submitted in the spring.

Ian Dodge

Lack of consistency has been a big weakness in previous plans, wrote Ian Dodge

Changes to plans will be expected to include reflecting updated better care fund proposals, such as their planned impact on hospital activity.

NHS England “will not require a refresh” of the five year strategic plans which NHS organisations submitted in June, the paper said.

However, planning guidance will draw on the national “five year forward view” which NHS England is expected to publish next month.

Guidance “will focus on the key themes from the five year forward view on which progress will need to be made in 2015-16”. It will also incorporate plans for co-commissioning of primary care, greater CCG involvement in commissioning specialised services, and the expansion of individual person level commissioning and personal budgets.

There will be a particular focus on trying to make sure commissioners’ and providers’ plans agree. In the past there have been differences for example over planned activity and income.

The paper, by national director for commissioning strategy Ian Dodge, said: “Lack of consistency between commissioner and provider plans has been a significant weakness of previous planning rounds.

“Alignment of commissioner plans with those of providers will be a top priority for 2015-16.”