The NHS Commissioning Board (NHSCB) has now authorised a second wave of clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) to commission healthcare services for their communities, taking the total to 101 groups serving more than 28 million people in England.

The first 34 CCGs were authorised in December, and local clinicians have now been given the go-ahead to take control of the NHS budget in almost half of England's local health communities, says the Board. A further 110 CCGs are set for authorisation over the next two months, and from April 2013 a total of 211 will be responsible for £65 billion of the NHS in England's £95 billion commissioning budget.

The second wave of CCGs, which have all completed a five-month assessment, will plan and commission hospital, community health and mental health services on behalf of more than 18 million people. The 34 groups authorised last month will serve a total of around 10 million.

"Almost half of the CCGs are now authorised and we are moving at pace towards a clinically-led NHS that is focused on delivering improved health outcomes, quality, innovation and public participation," said Dame Barbara Hakin, the NHSCB's national director for commissioning development. 

"The vast majority of these 67 new organisations have demonstrated excellence and a very high level of achievement and are clearly ready for the challenge of leading their local health communities in partnership with the public and with local partner organisations. Many have been commissioning services for one or two years already and are making a significant difference to local health and care services," she added.

19 of the 67 CCGs in the second wave have been authorised with no conditions, meaning they have met fully all 119 authorisation criteria. A further 45 groups have been authorised with conditions, meaning they will continue to receive some formal support to help them continue their development so that they also fully meet the criteria in all areas.

Three groups - NHS Nene CCG, NHS Herts Valleys CCG and NHS Medway CCG - will be authorised to take control of their commissioning budgets, but with more intensive support. This will be provided by the NHSCB or neighbouring CCGs and will be underlined by legal directions.

CCGs will have wide-ranging responsibilities and will manage very large budgets, so it is vital they are robust and capable of making important decisions, said Dame Barbara. The NHSCB takes “very seriously" its duty to ensure that the groups have that capability across all their responsibilities, she added.

The groups "have made fantastic progress in a very short time," she said. "It has always been clear that some of the new organisations would be at different stages to others, often dependent on their previous commissioning activities. The [NHSCB] has the mechanisms in place to give them all the support they need and we can assure the communities in these areas that health commissioning will be done to the same high standard as elsewhere."

Dame Barbara pointed out that, at the point of authorisation, "a CCG has sufficient building blocks in place to become a mature and developed commissioning organisation. Even those CCGs authorised with no conditions at all will be working to make further improvements in the future," she said.