NHS England has begun detailed work on how to pool its primary care budgets with other commissioners, one of its senior leaders has revealed.

Head of primary care commissioning David Geddes told HSJ that leaders in its regional and local teams had begun a project to “explore how far” it can develop co-commissioning and pooling.

The project is led by NHS England’s operations and delivery director for London, Simon Weldon, who is working with others including other directors of area teams

Since April last year NHS England has held budgets for most primary care and specialised services, local authorities for most public health services, and clinical commissioning groups for community, acute, mental health and other services.

The splits between responsibilities have caused problems and NHS England earlier this year said it would explore greater joint-working and pooling, particularly of primary care and community budgets.

Dr Geddes told HSJ in an interview that NHS England was now examining in more detail what was possible within legislation, and how pooled funds should be governed.

“What we want to be able to do is to start co-ordinating and sharing some of the [primary care] funding and getting legitimacy for that,” he said.

“We need to be testing out and getting the approach where we can [pool budgets] safely so that CCGs, [NHS England] area teams and local authorities can be clear about the governance.”

He added that NHS England needs to “understand what the legal barriers are… and make sure that we develop ways of working, so that we can collaborate and properly jointly commission without just ending up stepping on each other’s toes”.

Dr Geddes said area team teams might in future take a “piloting role” in developing co-commissioning.

NHS England is due to publish a framework on joint commissioning in June.