The national lead for the government’s commissioning reforms has ruled out the prospect of consortia reducing the range of NHS services provided or extending charges.

In an interview with HSJ, national director for commissioning development Dame Barbara Hakin said: “I’m sure if that happened [consortia tried to reduce or charge for services] the system would intervene.”

Her comments contradict suggestions by academics in recent weeks that consortia would apparently be permitted to make those changes under clauses of the Health Bill.

She said there was “no intention patients under any circumstances [will be] charged for NHS services apart from the limited range [already allowed]”. She said the NHS board would “have an absolute responsibility” to stop it.

A senior commissioning source told HSJ the board would need the ability to check consortia’s policies determining the extent of services offered, to challenge them if it disagreed, and to take the commissioning decision themselves in extreme cases.

Dame Barbara also revealed commissioning support units will also face an authorisation process, or the equivalent.

She added that the process may be similar to the now abolished PCT world class commissioning assurance.

Dame Barbara said: “We need to be as comfortable the commissioning support is fully competent as the consortia themselves.”

Read HSJ’s exclusive interview with Dame Barbara.