NHS commissioners will be able to use their new spending powers to benefit local people and communities, according to the NHS Confederation’s deputy director of policy.

Writing in The Guardian, Jo Webber said the Public Services (Social Value) Act gave public service commissioners a legal duty to take social values into account when they are procuring services.

And she insisted that giving new commissioning organisations control of the NHS purse strings would allow them to make the available money go further for local communities and get “maximum benefit out of every penny they spend”.

Commissioners will have the duty of raising the profile of health among local communities and ensure that the money they spend helps local people, Ms Webber said. This could extend to wellbeing, health, employment and inclusion, she added.

The act is due to come into effect in January and gives clinical commissioning groups, largely made up of local GPs, the power to decide how to spend the majority of the NHS’s £80bn commissioning budget.

Ms Webber acknowledged warnings from lawyers about the “pitfalls” of the new system, and admitted it may take some time “to feel comfortable in the new landscape”.

But she insisted that the new policy would give CCGs “enormous potential” to achieve extra value and improve the health and wellbeing of local people.

She added that the “potential reward of using the NHS’s significant commissioning power to enhance the health and wellbeing of our communities is simply too great not to embrace wholeheartedly”.