The Coronavirus Directions 2020

NHS England is taking on powers that are usually held by the Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) to commission services in relation to the Covid-19 pandemic. The powers include the power for NHS England to commission directly from the private sector to support the national effort to manage the effects of Covid-19, and a very broad power for NHS England to directly or indirectly support the provision of services by NHS bodies to address coronavirus and coronavirus disease as it deems appropriate.

Section 253 of the National Health Service Act 2006  (2006 Act) gives the Secretary of State for Health and Social Care emergency powers to take on responsibilities and duties usually held by other organisations within the NHS and to direct that others carry out these functions.

The Exercise of Commissioning Functions by the National Health Service Commissioning Board (Coronavirus) Directions 2020 came in to force on 20 March 2020 and will have effect until the end of 31 December 2020.  Recent announcements by the Government, including the and the extraordinary instructions announced on 23 March 2020, the justification for these changes is no unexpected:

The Secretary of State considers that the incidence of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) in England constitutes an emergency for the purposes of section 253(1) of that Act, and that accordingly it is appropriate to give these Directions”.

The reports about these Directions indicate that it is hoped that by centralising such commissioning , it may streamline the NHS’ ability to commission services in response to the developing situation.  This may prevent the need for multiple commissioners to become involved where such commissioning cuts across different boundaries.

These Directions do not prevent CCGs from carrying out any of their commissioning functions under the 2006 Act.

The Directions can be found here.