Two commissioning support units have not made it on to NHS England’s procurement framework, placing their viability and the futures of around 2,200 staff in doubt, HSJ has learned

North West CSU - which serves clinical commissioning groups in Cheshire, Merseyside and Greater Manchester - and Yorkshire and Humber CSU were unsuccessful in their bids for accreditation to provide the full range of “end to end” support services.

Staff at the CSUs were briefed on the issue last week.

The CSUs collectively serve 47 CCGs. In 2013-14 their combined turnover was £183m, and between them they employ more than 2,200 people.

It means that the following bids were successful:

  • North of England CSU;
  • South East CSU;
  • Greater East Midlands and Arden CSU;
  • Midlands and Lancashire CSU;
  • North and East London CSU;
  • South CSU and South West CSU; and
  • Central Southern CSU.

Since bidding separately for accreditation on to the framework, Central Southern, South West and South CSUs have announced they will merge.

HSJ has not yet learned the outcome of any of the non-NHS bids for the framework, although two councils and a range of private firms including UnitedHealth and Capita were invited to tender in August.

An official announcement from NHS England was originally expected on 30 January, but is now due on 5 February. Unsuccessful bidders are able to appeal in the meantime.

The procurement framework is being established by NHS England to ensure that CCGs have a choice of quality assured support services. CSUs have spent the past year preparing and refining their bids for the scheme.


North West CSU was unsuccessful in its bid for accreditation to provide ‘end to end’ support services

A year ago NHS England announced that CSUs that did not win accreditation had no viable future, although the agency has not yet confirmed what will happen to the two unsuccessful CSUs, or what it will do to help the CCGs that currently rely on the services they provide.

It is currently unclear what the future prospects for the staff who work in the two unsuccessful CSUs will be, for instance whether they transfer to a new CSU or if they will be made redundant. It also remains to be seen whether the CCGs they serve will have to procure an alternative provider or whether the transition will be managed by NHS England’s business development unit, which has managed CSUs until now.

Unison national officer Nick Bradley said the jobs at the two CSUs were now at risk. He added: “It also makes it more likely that private companies will take their place supporting CCGs, and we will therefore have private companies advising commissioners, which we would argue would result in the future privatisation of NHS services.”

Helen Hirst, chief officer of Bradford City CCG, told HSJ that Yorkshire and Humber CSU, her CCG’s main supplier, was “good in parts”, and that she had a commitment to work with the CSU to ensure its services became universally high quality.

“This has come in the middle of those discussions,” she said, forcing her CCG to reconsider the entire range of support services, including those was pleased with.

Alison Lee, chief executive of West Cheshire CCG, said NHS England’s move was a surprise. “It takes our time away from the work that we are supposed to be doing, which is improving the NHS.

“Too much of our time will be spent on a relatively small value contract that will have little relevance to the people we serve.”