The government is considering using its forthcoming Care and Support Bill to require clinical commissioning groups to pool part of their budgets with local authorities, HSJ has learned.
The move, believed to be in the early stages of development, is intended to force the integrated commissioning which ministers have said they are seeking.
A senior political source told HSJ that CCGs could be required to share funds as part of their involvement in joint planning process with local authorities.
“As part of that role we can say they should put some money in,” said the source. It is expected the pooled budget would be for care and support for people with long-term needs, although details are not known.
The move would also indicate a willingness on the part of the new ministerial team to make alterations to the new commissioning system developed by former health secretary Andrew Lansley.
Under Mr Lansley, the Department of Health had been very reluctant to put any requirements on autonomous CCGs, and slow to produce policy changes to attempt to promote integration nationally.
It would build on the national transfer of funds from the NHS to social care, which has been taking place now for several years.
It is likely the move may face opposition as a top-down initiative. It may also be highlighted that many PCTs already pool some budget - and CCGs plan to do so.
Chris Ham, chief executive of think tank the King’s Fund, said it would be “a really positive step and a tangible expression of commitment” to integrated commissioning. He said: “We need to look at the detail, but it would be a positive signal the government is going beyond warm words.”
Commons health committee chair Stephen Dorrell, who has been calling for joint commissioning, agreed that “it is a step in the right direction”. But he warned that it should not become an “incremental” step, and stand in the way of “more fundamental redesign of the care model”.
Health committee member and Conservative MP Sarah Wollaston also told HSJ she would welcome greater transfer of NHS funds to social care through pooled budgets.
The Care and Support Bill is expected to be taken through Parliament by health ministers Norman Lamb and Daniel Poulter later this year.