Clinical commissioning groups will be able to receive full authorisation by the end of October this year, in the first of four monthly waves of approvals that are due to be complete by 31 January 2013.

The timetable for approval is set out in draft guidance on CCG authorisation, which has been put forward to the NHS Commissioning Board for consideration at its meeting on Friday.

The guidance says all CCGs will go through a three stage procedure for approval. This includes a pre-application phase, when plans for commissioning support arrangements will be put in place.

This will be followed by the submission of a formal application for authorisation, followed by an authorisation decision by the NHS CB.

The authorisation process will include a desk-top review of the application, a 360 degree survey of stakeholders, and a one day site visit to the CCG.

The outcome of authorisation may be full authorisation, authorisation with conditions, or establishment without authorisation.

In the latter case the NHS CB will make alternative arrangements for commissioning until the shadow CCG is able to achieve authorisation.

CCGs can decide for themselves which wave they plan to join but the guidance says it wants all CCGs to inform their strategic health authority cluster about the timing of their application by the end of this month.

It adds that CCGs that do not believe they will be ready for authorisation by April 2013 will still need to apply for establishment as a CCG.

The guidance says authorisation will take account of the effectiveness of arrangements put in place for commissioning support including NHS, local authority, private sector and significant internal capacity and capability in CCGs.

It adds that emerging commissioning support services that are being developed by the NHS will be assured through a national commissioning support business review process.

Where CCGs have their own, significant internal capacity they will be expected to identify it and put separate governance arrangements in place. It says details of relevant assessments for internal support will be published shortly.

The NHS CB guidance says the board also expects CCGs to have a plan in place for formal procurement of commissioning support during the period 2013-16, while the NHS CB is hosting commissioning support services.

The guidance adds that this should include “identifying and specifying their requirements and going through a procurement process that is legally compliant.”

This week’s NHS CB meeting will also consider plans for recruiting staff to the board itself.

Another paper says the board will employ approximately 3,500 people, who will join the organisation from a number of ‘sending’ organisations including strategic health authorities, primary care groups, the Department of Health, and arms length bodies.

It says the plan to recruit to very senior manager roles in May and June and recruit to all other roles between July and December this year, although there are a number of "challenges" in the recruitment process.

The paper says that although "significant progress" has been made in defining directorates and senior roles, complete structures have not yet been developed for all directorates, and that functions and posts transferring from sending organisations have not yet been fully clarified.

One of the national director posts that still needs to be filled is for patient engagement, insight and informatics, for which a job ad was issued recently, with a salary of £165,000 a year.

The NHS CB paper says there are trade union concerns about elements of the process.

It adds: “While there is a very positive working partnership with trade unions they have concerns about elements of the recruitment process given the scale, complexity and pace of the forthcoming recruitment and the planned reduction in staff numbers across the system.”

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