Clinical commissioning groups have received guidance to “encourage and support” them to deliver parity of esteem for mental health services, Sir David Nicholson has said.

The NHS England chief executive made the comments in response to widespread criticism of the decision late last year to require a higher level of efficiency saving from mental health and community providers, than of hospital trusts.

HSJ has reported on the serious concerns of charities, providers and others about the decision to impose a 1.8 per cent price reduction for 2014-15 on mental health and community trusts, and only a 1.5 per cent reduction for hospital trusts. The move was also criticised by health minister Norman Lamb.

Sir David, speaking at NHS England’s board meeting last week, said NHS England would focus on protecting and improving crisis care, clinical mental health services and the quality of data and commissioning.

Deputy chief executive Dame Barbara Hakin told the board NHS England would scrutinise CCG plans to check their “commitment” to the “full breadth” of mental health and community services.

Sir David told the board: “There has undoubtedly been some criticism of the way in which the tariff has been set. Our stakeholder engagement wasn’t quite up to what it should have been.

“Because people said the tariff might give a message that mental health services would not be treated reasonably in these circumstances, we’ve set out some more guidance to CCGs around the planning process to ensure, and encourage and support the issue about parity of esteem, and we’ve set up a toolkit that they can use to help them work through it.”

The decision was made on the basis acute providers faced extra cost pressures following the Francis inquiry report, and subsequent reports, such as more staffing to improve care quality.

Sir David, justifying the decision at the board meeting, said: “The pressure on acute hospitals to do something about their nurse staffing was significant. The judgement was made that we would make a contribution to that.”