A merger between the Department of Health's commercial directorate and the NHS Purchasing and Supply Agency has been delayed until October, HSJ has learned.

The DoH set out plans to create a 'super-commercial agency' last week when it published its business plan for 2007-08, but this has been put on hold.

The DoH had originally hoped to merge the organisations this month and the delay also means that the commercial directorate has been without a permanent commercial director since Ken Anderson resigned in December to join investment bank UBS.

A merged directorate would have a total budget of£2.16bn and be in charge of managing all commercial activity between the NHS and the private sector at a national level.

The new organisation could total over 500 staff, 300 from PASA and a further 230 from the commercial directorate. However, HSJ understands that the DoH may use the merger to cut back on staff numbers as many of the current staff are employed as consultants rather than permanent civil servants.

A DoH spokeswoman said that plans for the merger would not be finalised until a new commercial director had been appointed.

'Following the high-level review of the DoH last year, there was a review of the commercial directorate and commercial activities across the DoH. This review is ongoing and unlikely to conclude until the appointment of the new commercial director'.

She added that the DoH hoped to appoint someone 'shortly'.

In January, a Healthcare Commission review found that national data on the clinical quality of independent sector treatment centres collected by the commercial directorate was 'incomplete and of extremely poor quality'. (news, page 5, 18 January).