Managers in Partnership has criticised plans to half the number of staff working on key parts of NHS planning and commissioning.

The union said it would add to pressure on staff and put services at risk meaning, “the only way to control the risks in the government’s reforms is to abandon the reforms”.

HSJ today published details of plans for the design of the NHS Commissioning Board. It will take on direct commissioning of specialist and family health services - worth tens of billions of pounds - as well as much of the running of the NHS from April 2013.

The plans are being outlined to staff today and in a document, Design of the NHS Commissioning Board, to be considered by the organisation’s board.

The document admits one of the main risks to its “resilience” will be trying to run its functions with “50 per cent less resource [than is currently spent on them] by 2014-15”. It is even greater than the one-third reduction in administation costs previously announced by the government and will include a similar reduction in staff.

It says the board will employ around 3,560 people - about 2,500 in around 50 local board offices; 200 in four regional “sectors”; and the rest in national teams, mainly based in Leeds.

Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell, responding to the details, said: “This decision is another product of the government’s mistaken belief that the NHS does not need management.

“MiP has repeatedly warned ministers that they are getting rid of the very people who can deliver the government’s reform plans, maintain high quality and safe services for patients and save £20bn.

“This cut should ring alarm bells with politicians considering the Health and Social Care Bill. Without enough managers in the service, MiP believes the only way to control the risks in the government’s reforms is to abandon the reforms, which we have always said are unnecessary and a huge drain on resources. Instead, we should concentrate on quality and savings.

“What’s incredible is the government itself identifies these risks, but does nothing.”

A briefing to staff on the plans, seen by HSJ, says further details on recruitment to the board will be published next month. It says: “There will be an overall workforce of around 3,560. Around 2,500 people will work in 50 local offices whose core role will be to commission high quality primary care services, supporting and developing clinical commissioning groups as well as assessing and assuring performance, direct and specialised commissioning and managing and cultivating local partnerships and stakeholder relationships, including representation on health and wellbeing boards.

“About 200 people will work in four sector teams, providing clinical and professional leadership, co-ordinating planning, operational management and emergency preparedness and undertaking direct commissioning functions and processes within a single operating model. Around 860 will work in the centre, with the corporate base in Leeds and a small presence in Maple Street, London.”

The briefing says the national directors of the board “are expected to be in post by the end of March”.