NHS England has been given authority over some functions of Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) in order to ensure continued service availability during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Government has published The Exercise of Commissioning Functions by the NHS Commissioning Board (Coronavirus) Directions 2020, describing expanded commissioning powers for NHS England. These allow NHS England to commission in lieu of CCGs where this is valuable in helping to control the crisis, as well as giving additional it latitude to commission healthcare services from private providers.
The Directions blur the normally distinct separation in commissioning responsibility between NHS England and Clinical Commissioning Groups, however it is worth noting that these regulations do not change where responsibility ultimately lies within the NHS system. Rather, they give discretionary power to NHS England to respond decisively to the current exceptional circumstances without bureaucratic concerns as to who the appropriate commissioner would be under more normal circumstances. The Directions say:
- (1) The Secretary of State directs the Board to exercise the following functions of clinical commissioning groups (6), in accordance with paragraph (2)—
- (a) functions under section 3 of the Act (duties of clinical commissioning groups as to commissioning certain health services)(7);
- (b) functions under section 3A of the Act (power of clinical commissioning groups to commission certain health services)(8).
- (2) The functions mentioned in paragraph (1) must be exercised by the Board during the period ending on 31st December 2020 —
- (a) for the purposes of commissioning health services from independent providers, and
- (b) as the Board deems appropriate, for the purposes of directly or indirectly supporting the provision of services by NHS bodies to address coronavirus and coronavirus disease.
- (3) These Directions do not preclude the exercise of any function under section 3 or 3A of the Act by a clinical commissioning group.
The Directions will cease to have effect at the end of 2020.
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