A special health authority is a type of NHS body which provide services on behalf of the National Health Service in England. Unlike other types of Trust, they operate nationally rather than serve a specific geographical area.
They are a type of "arm's length body" of the Department of Health of the United Kingdom, along with executive agencies and non-departmental public bodies (NDPBs). Special health authorities are independent, but can be subject to ministerial direction like other NHS bodies.
While special health authorities may provide services direct to the public, most are concerned with improving the ability of other parts of the NHS to deliver effective health care.
Special health authorities were set to provide a national service to the NHS or the public, under section 11 of the National Health Service Act 1977. Prior to the repeal of the whole of the 1977 Act by the NHS (Consequential Provisions) Act 2006, special health authorities included both infrastructure support organisations and national/specialist treatment providers such as the Special Hospitals Service Authority and the Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Special Health Authority. These direct clinical service providers were progressively merged with local NHS trusts and consequently with mainstream governance and funding arrangements.
+Became part of the NHS Business Services Authority in April 2006)