In December 2007, the Department of Health and the NHS launched the vision for world class commissioning.

Six months on the programme is progressing at pace. This month we saw the launch of a key element of the programme - a nationally consistent commissioning assurance system.

Assurance will be managed by strategic health authorities and will measure performance in three central areas: health outcomes, competencies, and governance. Primary care trusts will be expected to have completed the first cycle of the assurance by March 2009.

Assurance will be of absolute importance to driving performance, as will recognising and rewarding commissioners as they progress. But I must stress that world class commissioning is not an end in itself: commissioners will need to demonstrate better outcomes for the people and communities they serve.

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