The Central Eastern Clinical Commissioning Support Unit has shelved plans to bid for a place on NHS England’s ‘lead provider’ network, throwing its long-term viability into question.

The commissioning Unit decided against applying for a place on the network after examining the intentions of its clinical commissioning group clients.

NHS England has made clear that CSUs which are not accredited by its lead provider framework for commissioning support would be “extremely unlikely” to win enough contracts to stay financial viable.

Under this framework, NHS England will award between 10 to 15 support services providers a quality-assured status. Applications for this “lead provider” status can be made by CSUs, private firms or through joint bids.

The Central Eastern CSU told HSJ it would remain viable for the next two years, but admitted its long-term financial position “could be vulnerable”.

“[We] may not have sufficient critical mass in some key service areas to meet LPF [lead provider framework] requirements and the needs of its customers”, it said in a statement.

One of central eastern CSU’s clients, North East Essex Clinical Commissioning Group, is considering ending its contract with the CSU. It has already decided to bring three services back in house, following concerns about the delivery of services by the CSU.

Central Eastern CSU will continue to operate in its current form until October and is working alongside neighbouring Central Southern and North and East London CSUs on how to provide support to its customers until then.

Central Eastern had entered into an “exclusive business relationship” with Central Southern in January to bolster their individual bids for accreditation onto the lead provider framework.

David Stout, managing director of Central Eastern CSU, said it was confident that discussions with neighbouring CSUs would “provide a strong platform for delivering excellent commissioning support services in the medium and long term.

“We have taken action now to ensure that CCGs have access to the best possible commissioning support, building on the strength of our existing services.”

John Wilderspin, managing director of Central Southern CSU, added: “It seems a natural and exciting step for us to develop the relationship and to explore the prospect of new opportunities which best suit the CCGs and the patients they serve.”

Andrew Ridley, managing director of North and East London CSU, said: “We are very pleased to have been invited to discuss options with Central Eastern CSU’s CCG clients as we are committed to making clinical commissioning work for the benefit of patients.”