Details have been released of how commissioning support units will collaborate to provide some essential services at scale.

Networks of CSUs will be established to provide “business intelligence” services such as data management and integration to clinical commissioning groups, the NHS Commissioning Board announced today.

A separate set of CSU networks will exist to provide clinical procurement services. However some larger CSUs will provide those services independently.

Commissioning support units were until very recently referred to as commissioning support services by the NHS’s leadership.

The board has also revealed that all CSUs who want to will have the chance to provide “business support” functions such as finance, human resources and legal services. Those functions had originally been earmarked to be provided on a larger scale.

The commissioning board asked CSUs to submit business cases if they wished to supply services on behalf of others in May.

Its decision on which CSUs will be allowed to provide services at scale was initially expected to be announced in early July.

The following consortia of CSUs will collaborate to provide business intelligence services:

  • North East and North Yorkshire and Humber CSU collaborative;
  • South and West Yorkshire CSU collaborative, comprising the West Yorkshire and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSUs;
  • The London CSU collaborative, comprising North West London, North Central and East London, and South London CSUs, and;
  • The South CSU collaborative, comprising Commissioning Support South, Surrey and Sussex, and Kent and Medway CSUs.

The following will provide clinical procurement services:

  • South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSU;
  • North East CSU;
  • Norfolk and Waveney CSU;
  • Essex CSU;
  • North Central and East London CSU;
  • North West London CSU;
  • Surrey and Sussex CSU, and;
  • Commissioning Support South CSU.

The following CSUs will provide both business intelligence and clinical procurement support services:

  • The North West collaborative, comprising Lancashire, Cumbria, Greater Manchester, Merseyside, Cheshire Warrington and Wirral CSUs;
  • Birmingham and the Black Country CSU will provide clinical procurement and business intelligence on behalf of Staffordshire CSU, and will provide business intelligence services only on behalf of the Arden CSU.
  • The Greater East Midlands CSU;
  • The Central Southern CSU, and;
  • Best West CSU.

Arden, Kent and Medway, and South London CSUs are working with the commissioning board to meet “industry standards” and are likely to resubmit their bids to provide clinical procurement services at “checkpoint three” of the board’s CSU assurance process, which begins at the end of August. The three are: Arden; Kent and Medway; and South London.

The board revealed use of the term CSU this week. HSJ understands that the board is keen to stress the difference between CSUs, which will sit within the board until 2016, and the wider market in commissioning support services. The new term also emphasises that until they are made independent, CSUs will be distinct units but also part of the commissioning board.

Final details are yet to emerge about communications services, the fourth “scale” CSU.

CSUs have been working on plans to host their own communications teams since the planned single CSU to provide communications services for the whole of England was scrapped due to lack of CCG interest.

The board is understood to be developing a set of “four or five” networks to provide higher-level strategic communications services. A networked arrangement has been approved in the South of England region. Under the plans the following CSUs would provide local communications services independently and collaborate on some larger campaigns: Surrey and Sussex; CSS South; Central Southern; Best West; Kent and Medway.

CSS South is the nominative lead for the network. A similar arrangement is also being developed in the West Midlands.

  • UPDATE, 4.15pm, August 14: This story has been altered to correct errors in the information sent to HSJ by the NHS Commissioning Board