All 42 Integrated Care Boards (ICBs) are to take responsibility for pharmaceutical services from 1 April 2023, NHS England has confirmed.

As it stands, only nine ICBs are responsible for pharmaceutical services.

In a letter sent to ICB and CCG leaders, NHS England confirmed that from 1 April 2023, all ICBs will be expected to take on responsibility for all pharmaceutical, general ophthalmic and dental services.

They will also be expected to assume responsibility for certain specialised services that have been deemed ‘ready for further integration’.

Signed by Mark Cubbon, chief delivery officer, the letter said NHS England would work closely with systems to strengthen their involvement in decisions over the coming year.

It said: ‘Prior to delegation, we will undertake a pre-delegation assessment of each ICB to determine its readiness to assume responsibility for these services in April 2023.’

ICBs will be expected to meet a set of minimum requirements, considered and approved by NHS England, before they take responsibility for the delegated services.

This assessment will be based on two nationally agreed frameworks, one concerning those primary care functions and one for specialised services.

This comes one month before 1 July, the point from which point ICBs will become statutory bodies and will assume responsibility for primary medial services.

From that date, nine ICBs will take on delegated responsibility for one or more pharmaceutical services, general ophthalmic services and dental services.

NHS England also published an accompanying roadmap for integrating specialised services, establishing that 65 services have been deemed ‘suitable for integration’ from April 2023.

As many as 106, however, have been marked as either not suitable – including highly specialised services which typically see just 500 patients a year – or as ‘not yet ready’ for ICS leadership.

It said that further work will be conducted over the next few months to refine the list.

A think tank recently urged NHS England to consider delegating specialist services to matured ‘trailblazer’ ICSs to help push responsibility ‘away from the centre’ and into systems.

A version of this story was first published on our sister website, Healthcare Leader.