Clinical senates set up to advise clinical commissioning groups will not have a right to veto GPs' commissioning plans, but will help annually assess CCGs' performance, according to a senior Department of Health advisor.
A letter to NHS chiefs from Dr Kathy McLean, the medical director of NHS East Midlands who chaired the NHS Future Forum group on clinical advice and leadership, also reveals that there are likely to be around 15 senates across England.
It says senates will ‘not exist as statutory bodies or formal organisations', but instead bring clinical leaders together to provide ‘a vehicle for cross speciality collaboration, strategic advice and support to commissioners'.
It comes after Pulse recently revealed that plans to introduce senates were set to be ‘modified considerably' to address concerns raised by GP leaders that they will stifle GPs' freedom to commission with autonomy.
Organisations including the BMA, NHS Alliance and National Association of Primary Care have all called for clinical senates to be restricted to an advisory role to ensure CCGs are the final decision makers.
The letter says senates are ‘not intended to be another layer of bureaucracy or be a structure to ‘interfere' with or constrain clinical commissioning groups'.
Ms McLean wrote: ‘Senates may provide part of the way for clinical commissioning groups to meet their proposed statutory duty to secure advice from a wide range of health professionals, but they will not have a right of veto for plans or proposals.'
She said senates could be useful as means of providing advice on clinical aspects of commissioning plans for ‘large scale service change or reconfiguration'.
‘They could also have a role in the quality aspects of authorisation or annual assessment of clinical commissioning groups,' she added.