NHS England has proposed developing an ‘approved list’ of commissioning support units, which CCGs can use to commission services as they wish.
The proposals for a new ‘framework agreement’ will see NHS England developing an approved list that will consist of around 10 to 15 ‘lead provider’ CSUs, down from the current 17, from which CCGs can commission any number of services.
CSUs provide back-office support to CCGs, but NHS England has said it wants them to help provide ‘large scale transformational change projects’. Under the proposals, there will also be a secondary ‘clinical support’ list of 10 CSUs providing only a small range of specific services to CCGs.
The framework agreement will be finalised by early 2015, and will ‘give customers assurance that organisations meet high quality criteria and minimum standards so that only the best commissioning support suppliers are accredited’, the document stated.
According to the document, CCGs are currently spending over £550m on commissioning support services from CSUs but that ‘based on current CCG running costs allowance’ the total potential size of the market is just over £1bn.
NHS England said that CCGs will be able to ‘significantly reduce the timescales’ for procurement to 2-3 months from the 9-12 months under full European procurement guidelines and that there may be a ‘reduced risk of legal challenge’ for CCGs buying services at the competition stage.
Last week, NHS Anglia Commissioning Support Unit became the latest CSU to confirm that it was looking at options to merge with another CSU, taking the current total down to 17.
Dr Charles Alessi, chair of the National Association of Primary Care, told Pulse that CCGs wanted CSUs that understood who their customers were.
He said: ‘CSUs need to become fit for purpose really fast and at present CSUs are very variable…CSUs need to think outside the box and think about partnering with anyone who brings added value inside or outside of the NHS family.’
A spokeswoman for NHS England told Pulse that CCGs would be able to source ‘the entirety of their commissioning support needs, from the more transactional back office support services to local and large scale transformational change projects’ from the framework.