The Department of Health launched a consultation in February on proposed amendments to the regulations that allow health bodies and local authorities to enter into partnership arrangements. The two most significant amendments are:

GP commissioning can be delegated to local authorities

This amendment would allow NHS England to enter into section 75 arrangements with local authorities for commissioning primary medical services, by adding section 83 of the National Health Service Act 2006 into the list of NHS functions in respect of which such arrangements may be made. One use of this provision could be to bring the primary medical services budget into a section 75 pooled fund. The consultation document contemplates that this might be a three-way arrangement between NHS England, local CCGs and the local authority, with a view to integrating out-of-hospital care commissioning. In this respect, the guidance builds on the concept of co-commissioning of GP services and the work already done on managing GP conflicts. The document goes on to ask whether respondents think that dentistry, ophthalmology and pharmacy commissioning would also benefit from being brought into the regulations, although that is not currently part of the proposal.

Better Care Fund consultation requirement

Under current regulations, CCGs and local authorities are required to consult persons who may be affected by proposed partnership arrangements. The amendments in the draft regulations set out in the consultation document remove this requirement in relation to BCF. This will come as a relief to CCGs and local authorities, given the short timetable to finalise their BCF arrangements.

The consultation closes on 8 March 2015.