The recommendations of the NHS Future Forum are likely to focus on secondary legislation and on the assurance process for consortia, rather than push for major changes to the Health and Social Care Bill, its chair has indicated to HSJ.

The forum met for the first time yesterday. Professor Steve Field, who is chairing the body, told HSJ this morning that the forum had “no fixed ideas” about what it would recommend, and is “still at the listening stage”.

He said there were no limits on what the body could recommend, but played down the possibility of changes to the bill, which has only its third reading left in the House of Commons before it passes into the Lords.

Instead, he said: “Some of the things [we will recommend on] won’t be things which are in a bill – my suspicions are that you need to do some things in the bill some detail outside… outside the bill is how you decide how you would make things work.”

Professor Field added that the forum’s report would enable the government to respond by improving the bill and “improve the assurance processes that drop out of the bill”.

He said the composition of consortia boards was one area where changes could be made through the assurance process. “It would be unrealistic to have every doctor from every medical speciality involved on a board,” professor Field said.

“I’m not into tokenism. It hasn’t worked in the past – it won’t work in the future.

“So, how do you write into an assurance process to ensure that all commissioning decisions involve the appropriate specialist or nurse?”

The forum is currently sifting through information gathered by the government’s “listening exercise” over the past two weeks, as well as looking again at consultation responses on last year’s NHS white paper, which preceded the bill.

The body will write their report in late May, and publish it in the first week of June. But professor Field raised the possibility of further delays to the bill’s progress through parliament. He said: “It will take the government a few weeks to respond, because this is independent - to actually think about it.”