• Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham STP sets out the proposal to convert commissioning support unit into a community interest company
  • After the transition the North of England Commissioning Support Unit will be jointly owned by its CCG customers
  • The CCG owners will be the 11 commissioning groups which form the Northern CCG Forum covering the north east and Cumbria
  • Potential impact of the change to other areas which use the NECS not been fully assessed

A commissioning support unit is to be turned into a community interest company owned by its CCG customers, according to the region’s sustainability and transformation plan.

The document, published last week, says converting North of England Commissioning Support Unit into a company will support the delivery of the STP and save cash which can then be reinvested into frontline care.

CSUs are currently hosted by NHS England. Since they were first established in 2011 the policy has always been that they would become independent entities.

The idea of clinical commissioning groups taking long term ownership of CSUs was first floated in 2013.

The community interest company would be owned by the 11 CCGs in the Northern CCG Forum, covering the North East and Cumbria.

NECS employs more than 800 staff and provides business support and intelligence, communications and engagement, procurement and clinical support services.

The Northumberland, Tyne and Wear and North Durham STP document said turning the CSU into a community interest company would also provide the “high performing analytical, transformation and business support services” needed to implement the proposals.

It added that establishing NECS as a community interest company would secure its position as a “market leader in commissioning support services”, while “further aligning their priorities with ours to drive out greater efficiency, innovation and improvement”.

The STP, which was submitted to NHS England last month, added that the NECS work will focus on the shared priorities of the region’s CCGs, including:

  • commissioning intelligence and application of the Rightcare programme;
  • programme and project management;
  • communications and engagement; and
  • delivery of digital care across the region.

The document also said the conversion will “safeguard our continued access to critical business intelligence” and speed up service transformation to improve patient outcomes.

A community interest company is a limited company whose assets must be used in improving the community, and which has limitations on what dividend and interest payments can be made to shareholders.

David Hambleton, chair of the Northern CCG Forum, said commissioning needed to adapt to focus on shared the region’s “strategic priorities”.

He said: “As clinical commissioners in the North East and Cumbria we really value the expertise and experience within NECS which is critical to delivering better outcomes for the patients we serve.

“Therefore, we will work with NHS England to explore plans for NECS to become a new community interest company – owned jointly by its CCG customers – which will allow us to concentrate our resources into the delivery of our STP plans, whilst safeguarding uninterrupted access to vital commissioning support services at this crucial time.”

However, Dr Hambleton, who is also chief officer for South Tyneside CCG, stressed the potential implications to other STPs of turning NECS into a community interest company had not been fully assessed.

Other plans in the STP to close the region’s £641m expected financial gap by 2020-21, include:

  • Scaling up the new care models such as as the Northumbria accountable care organisation vanguard, which is scheduled to go live in a partially integrated form in April.
  • Continue moves to bring South Tyneside and Sunderland foundation trusts together under a single management team.
  • Review the workforce pressures of delivering a seven day service.
  • Expand prevention services to reduce smoking and obesity prevalence.