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NHS Commissioning Board (later NHS England)

On 1 October 2012, the NHS Commissioning Board was formally established as an independent body with executive powers and responsibilities. Its main job was to review and assess the authorisation of the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) and prepare to take over its full range of powers from 1 April 2013.

Its early objectives were to:

  • transfer power to local organisations
  • establish the commissioning landscape
  • develop specific commissioning and financial management capabilities
  • develop relationships.


The first mandate to the NHS Commissioning Board was published in November 2012 by the Department of Health. The mandate set out the government's strategic direction for the NHS Commissioning Board, with five areas where progress was expected:

  • preventing ill health and providing better early diagnosis and treatment of diseases, such as cancer
  • managing long-term physical and mental conditions to provide joined-up care
  • helping people to recover from episodes of ill health or injury
  • providing better care with a focus on compassion, dignity and respect, as well as better treatment
  • providing safe care and a clean and safe environment.

Measuring progress

The indicators from the NHS outcomes framework would be used to measure the progress made in each of these areas. Some of the main objectives contained in the mandate were that:

  • every patient should have the opportunity to provide feedback on the quality of care they had received via the friends and family test
  • by 2015 patients would be able book GP appointments, manage repeat prescriptions online and communicate with their GP online
  • mental health and physical health should be treated equally
  • by 2015, people should have access to information about how well their local NHS was providing care.

By 2015 the NHS Commissioning Board was required to:

  • fully embed all patients' legal rights to make choices about their care, and extended choice in areas where no legal right existed, including offering the choice of any qualified provider in community and mental health services
  • support the creation of a fair playing field. The board was required to lead improvements in NHS procurement to allow providers from all sectors to contribute
  • have made significant improvements in extending and improving pricing structures for providers.

The government set out objectives around integration and wanted to see improvements in the way in which people experienced transitions between different care settings. The NHS Commissioning Board was asked to drive and coordinate engagement with local authorities, CCGs and providers, and work with national bodies to tackle the barriers which had previously prevented services from being coordinated and integrated.

Later developments

The secretary of state subsequently wrote to the chair of the NHS Commissioning Board to confirm that the board would be known as NHS England from 1 April 2013. The change of name was in recognition of the new public-facing role the board would adopt once It had taken on its full responsibilities.

The title 'NHS England' was thought to 'provide a clearer, less technical sense of its remit and enable it to connect more effectively with the public'.

Upon being renamed, NHS England took on a £95bn commissioning budget to commission primary care and national specialised services. Its responsibilities were to oversee the performance of the NHS and provide guidance to CCGs. The secretary of state set objectives for NHS England through the mandate to the NHS, and NHS England was accountable to the secretary of state for its delivery and performance.


NHS Commissioning Board.
Annual report and accounts 1 October 2012 to 31 March 2013.
HMSO; 2013.

Department of Health and Social Care.
NHS Commissioning Board Authority goes live.
gov.uk; 2011.

NHS England.
NHS England; chairman welcomes new name.
NHS England; 2013.

NHS England.
About NHS England.
NHS England; 2019.

Hunt J.
NHS Commissioning Board name change to NHS England.
Department of Health and Social Care; 2013.

Department of Health.
The mandate - a mandate from the government to the NHS Commissioning Board; April 2013 to March 2015.
Department of Health; 2013.