The NHS Commissioning Board has published its operating model and commissioning intentions for specialised services.
The model sets out the structure and approach the commissioning board will take to planning and contracting for the services, worth about £12bn.
Meanwhile, Prescribed Specialised Services: Commissioning Intentions for 2013-14, sets out some of the requirements the board will make of providers of the services.
The board has also said it will shortly publish the first “set of national service specifications and clinical policies for specialised services”, on which it will hold a public consultation.
Providers will be required to meet the new standards from April, when the board takes over commissioning from primary care trusts and regional specialised commissioning groups.
Currently the range of services and quality varies around the country, so in some areas the standards may mean providers need to make significant changes.
Commissioning board deputy chief executive Ian Dalton, speaking to HSJ ahead of their publication, said: “There have been big improvements [in recent years] but it’s very clear there are still significant variations [in specialised services].
“We are interested in ensuring that wherever you look you get access to the same quality of service.”
Mr Dalton said the board wanted to “move rapidly to national convergence”.
He said in some cases it could mean changes to where services were provided but that was “not predetermined” by the board.
It would be up to providers to decide whether they could meet them, he said. “It is absolutely for providers to respond to these standards.”
Meanwhile, the operating model for the commissioning of the services confirms the work will be led by ten of the board’s local area teams.
Mr Dalton said the teams’ “mission is completely different” from that of the current regional specialised commissioning groups. Each LAT will plan and contract for services from providers within its area, rather than for a population.
It will mean specialised providers – which currently often have contracts with several specialised commissioning groups – will only hold a single contract with the commissioning board.
Mr Dalton said that would give the board the “highest quality relationship with specialist providers”.