The government intends to give clinical commissioning groups shadow budget allocations this year, despite removing the deadline for the groups to take on their full financial responsibility in April 2013.
It made the revelation in its response to April’s Commons health committee report on commissioning, which had been delayed until the NHS Future Forum report was released.
The document revealed recommendations on how to finance clinical commissioning groups will next month be presented to ministers by a key advisory body.
NHS funds are distributed to commissioners using a formula that takes into account the health needs of different populations.
The health committee said the government’s plans to introduce a new formula to be tested during the 2012-13 financial year would be “difficult to achieve”. It recommended that the boundaries of new commissioners would need to be established by this point and a “detailed timetable” be published.
During the committee’s evidence NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson said: “Apart from getting the allocations out for 2012-13, we have done very little work on what will happen in 2013-14.”
The response said the Department of Health’s advisory body on resource allocation would present a recommendation to the health secretary next month.
“The Advisory Committee on Resource Allocation (ACRA) will make recommendations to the Secretary of State in July on the formulae for the future distribution of NHS resources. It continues to be our aim to publish shadow allocations for clinical commissioning groups by the end of the year, based on our best understanding of the likely group membership at that time.”
The response also said it was “never the government’s intention” to weaken the accountability of the government for health services, as suggested by the committee.
While the committee’s report said the original Health Bill was “unlikely” to deliver the intended devolution of authority.The response said clinical commissioning groups and the NHS Commissioning Board “will have their own responsibilities defined in law” and will have “objectives” from the secretary of state set out in the mandate.
The government also responded to the committee’s claim the mandate would lead to an “overly prescriptive approach”, saying: “We will therefore amend the bill to set a clear expectation that the Secretary of State’s mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board is a multi-year document.”