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Report into new NHS structures launched

28 March 2013

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A report into Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) – a new breed of health organisation that helps NHS bodies procure goods and services – has been launched by Campden Health, a leading publishing, events and research company.

Via interviews with 18 of the 19 CSU Managing Directors, Supporting Structures: A soft intelligence report on CSUs gathers together valuable data on these little-known organisations. It includes budgets and lists of core CCG customers along with structures and strategies of the CSUs which together employ more than 7,000 staff.

Lead author, Victoria Vaughan, Campden Health’s editor-in-chief, said: “Getting comprehensive information about these new organisations centrally was not available so this report seeks to resolve that issue.

“Changes in vacancies and, alarmingly, managing directors were still taking place in the last weeks of March but the report is as up to date as possible. 

“Commissioning support units have the potential to be the engine rooms of the new NHS if they win the backing of their CCGs. It seems likely that any private sector company that wants to work with the NHS will need to do so through these CSUs.” 

CSUs will be ‘hosted’ by NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) until 2016 after which they will become private companies, partnerships or social enterprises – but exact details of acceptable models are yet to be released.

They depend entirely on CCG customers for income rather than guaranteed budgets as their PCT predecessors did. CCGs do not have to work with CSUs but the advantage is that they can make savings by commissioning at scale.

The report reveals the challenges they face such as the culture shift required of staff to work in a more commercial environment. MD of Arden CSU Rachel Pearce, said: “The majority of staff are from a PCT background, keeping that customer focus and not being the lead commissioner is a journey our staff have to take.” 

It also gives insight into the views on private sector involvement, an issue that has featured heavily in public discussions about the NHS reforms. North of England CSU MD, Stephen Childs said: “When you provide a full complement of commissioning we know that some service lines can run at a loss. Why would a company come into that when they can cherry-pick the best bits?”

The full report is available here.