Here we go with the NHS Commissioning Board

On the 1st October the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) came in to being. I suppose the key question is, ‘what does the board do?’

Well the board is an executive non-departmental body which basically means that it has been established by government but operates independently of them. There are two key parts to the work of the board as follows:

1. From 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013

The key aim of the board is to authorise all 212 of the new Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) that will commission (buy) most healthcare services from the suppliers (hospitals, mental health trusts and others).

The new CCGs which are made up of existing medical practices (doctors surgeries) are being authorised in 4 waves to replace the existing commissioning organisations (PCTs). The NHS CB will be making sure they each have the correct legal requirements in place.

2. From 1 April 2013

The NHS CB will be responsible for overseeing the work of the CCGs and it will also have responsibility for commissioning some services directly, such as ensuring that dental services are commssioned throughout the country.

What does this mean to the average person in the street? Well if I need a hip replacement I will still go along to my local GP who will put me in the system for having the work done. I will still have the operation provided by the hip surgeon, probably at the same hospital that I would always have gone to.

The difference lies in what goes on behind the scenes, in the machinery of the NHS. My GP will ask the CCG to pay for the hip replacement. They will consider the case and commission the service from an appropriate hospital & then when I have successfully had the operation the CCG will pay the hospital, assuming the hospital sends them an invoice (it does sometimes happen that they don’t!).

Why are we changing from the existing system though? Well these new CCGs will be mainly led by doctors rather than commissioning professionals. These CCGs will focus on and understand better the medical needs of the patients and this will ultimately give better results for those patients. Will it really make a difference to the average patient? Who knows, but we’ll have an interesting 12 months ahead as the changeover really swings into action.