The abolition of strategic health authorities is to be delayed by three months until July 2012, the Department of Health is expected to announce today.


The decision is believed to have been taken yesterday, as Downing Street confirmed there would be a “pause” in the NHS reform process and could be changes to health secretary Andrew Lansley’s plans.

A senior source close to the reforms said the creation of the NHS Commissioning Board as a special health authority would now take place in July, rather than April as planned. The lifetime of SHAs is expected to be extended by three months. Some changes to Monitor are also expected to be delayed by the same period.

SHA staff have been told the legislative delay meant the organisations may not be able to be formally disestablished and replaced by April.

Senior SHA sources said the “pause” meant NHS Commissioning Board chief executive elect Sir David Nicholson, who had planned to announce its structure and senior appointments next month, would now delay those appointments. He is still expected to set out “high level structures” of the board.

The delayed abolition could encourage SHA staff to stay in post for slightly longer, rather than leave as the April 2013 deadline approaches. Sir David is said to be keen for key staff to remain and transfer into the commissioning board, to help maintain “grip” on performance and finance.

Senior SHA sources said staff briefings had been arranged at short notice for this afternoon.

The announcement is expected to be confirmed by the Department of Health later today. The DH is also expected to stress that the development of commissioning consortia will continue, and primary care trusts will still be abolished in April 2013.

The Guardian this morning reported NHS chief executive Sir David Nicholson had taken the decision to delay the abolition of SHAs, but confirmed development of the NHS Commissioning Board will continue.