The NHS is set to form four regional bodies out of grouped strategic health authorities.

HSJ understands the national NHS management is due to merge the North West, North East and Yorkshire and the Humber SHAs into a Northern cluster.

London will remain standalone.

Senior sources said three options are still being considered for how the remaining SHAs will split:

  1. East Midlands, East of England & South East Coast AND West Midlands, South West & South Central
  2. South West, South East Coast &  South Central AND West Midlands, East Midlands & East of England
  3. South Central, East of England & South East Coast AND East Midlands, West Midlands and South West

The Department of Health is believed to be considering the options, including by analysis of patient flows, and is set to make a decision next month.

Chief executives of the SHA clusters are expected to be appointed in October. The most likely candidates are NHS Yorkshire and the Humber chief executive Bill McCarthy for the North; Dame Ruth Carnall to remain in London; and Sir Ian Carruthers and Sir Neil McKay for the two other bodies.

Senior staff said they expected the new bodies to form regional directorates of the NHS Commissioning Board.

Its chief executive elect Sir David Nicholson, current NHS chief executive, is due to publish further details of the transition in an open letter on Monday.

Some SHA staff have been briefed on the changes which will mean further redundancies. SHAs are to remain as statutory bodies until April 2013 – a year longer than initially planned – it was announced this week.

Health and social care directorates established in 2002 covered the North, South, Midlands and London.