Primary care responsible officers will probably sit with the NHS Commissioning Board, the Department of Health figure in charge of the policy has confirmed.

DH responsible officers lead Michael Wright was speaking at the NHS Confederation conference this morning, in response to a question from NHS Hampshire clinical director Stuart Ward.

Dr Ward said it was still unclear where responsible  officers, who have statutory responsibility for clinical governance, will sit when primary care trusts are abolished.

Mr Wright replied: “We’re starting to develop our thoughts…The intention is we will begin consulting on the proposals around October time.

“We know there will be a commissioning board and a national performers list held by the commissioning board and it will have to delegate down to clinical consortia if it seems appropriate.

“That’s what’s guiding our thinking. Under the current legislation the secretary of state has a duty to promote autonomy in the NHS.

“That points me in the direction to say the commissioning board seems to be where we’re heading for responsible officers in primary care but with the power to delegate.”

Dr Ward pressed Mr Wright to make a final decision sooner rather than later as PCTs are clustering and would “run out of time” to plan future arrangements for responsible officers.

General Medical Council chief executive Niall Dickson said the next 12 months would be “absolutely critical” before revalidation was introduced in late 2012.

Pilots had shown the important of appraisals and gathering data to assess the performance of individuals.

A clinical commissioning group lead asked how the system would address the problem of consultant doctors “obstructing progress”, by opposing service changes, for example.

Mr Dickson said 360 degree appraisals would help to ensure this was picked up and dealt with through the revalidation process.