GP commissioners will have to accept NHS Shared Business Services as their provider of financial services, after the NHS Commissioning Board made it a condition of authorisation.
The move comes after the board signed a £15.8m deal with NHS SBS last month – a joint venture between the Department of Health and private firm Steria – for all CCGs in England to use the service.
The proposals, presented at the Board’s latest meeting this week, will mean a significant expansion in coverage for SBS, which currently provides financial and accounting services to 80 of 150 PCTs in England.
The NHS CB insisted the deal was ‘the only option’ as it was not feasible or cost-effective to develop or procure any alternative systems in time for CCG’s going live April 2013.
But the GPC said it had ‘serious concerns’ about the deal after major problems with GP payments delays and administrative errors.
Paul Taylor, interim director of finance at the NHS Commissioning Board, who authored the paper, admitted the move could upset CCGs.
He wrote: ‘The downside of the proposal would be concern over the value for money as there would be no competitive tension in the procurement process, and abreaction from the CCGs that local flexibility in choosing their own F&A system had been taken away from them.’
But Mr Taylor added: ‘There is no practical alternative to the NHS SBS solution being commissioned because the timescales for implementation, even of an existing tried and tested system, will be challenging.’
Dr Shane Gordon, a GP in Tiptree, Essex, and chief executive of North East Essex CCG, supported the move, within limits: ‘If it does a specific set of things which definitely add value, for example a single national financial reporting requirement, then there’s not much room to argue.
‘But if it starts going into services like analytics, then there’s much more potential to be concerned that they’re not getting what they really want out of it.’
GPC negotiator Dr Chaand Nagpaul said the GPC had ‘serious concerns’ regarding the current services provided by NHS SBS: ‘The provider is quite remote and there is no direct accountability to the end user, the GP practice.’
Dr Mark McCartney, a GP in Pensilva, Cornwall, said: ‘To link the use of NHS SBS to authorisation of CCGs does not seem to fit with Mr Lansley’s position of “no top down control”.’
A spokesperson for NHS Shared Business Services said: ‘NHS SBS has the infrastructure and capacity to provide the Integrated Single Financial Environment, and has a six year track record of successfully transforming business support services for NHS Trusts and organisations.’
What NHS SBS will provide
– High-level financial management for the NHS Commissioning Board and a system for regular and rapid review of finances
– Finance and accounting solutions for CCGs
– Common accounting systems for Commissioning Support Units to support a number of different CCGs
– The board will meet the contract price in full, with no direct costs passed on to CCGs.
Source: NHS Commissioning Board Authority, March 2012