NHS England has relaxed the deadlines for support services to be procured amid lack of enthusiasm from clinical commissioning groups.

  • CCGs now have until July to re-procure commissioning support
  • Four “tranches” of procurement planned by NHS England never happened
  • Only 20 CCGs have voluntarily used the lead provider framework

HSJ has learned that only 20 CCGs have voluntarily signed up to use NHS England’s lead provider framework to procure support services.

NHS England has confirmed it has abandoned its original plan for all 209 CCGs to have formally tendered for commissioning support by April 2016 through a series of four “tranches” of procurement.

Steve Kell

Steve Kell said there are ‘a number of unresolved issues’ about the framework

These were to have taken place in February, April, June and September 2015 but never happened. NHS England now requires CCGs to tender by July 2016 and submit procurement plans by the end of March.

NHS England’s guidance strongly encourages CCGs to have tendered and have a new contract in place by April 2016, warning that failure to do so would not comply with procurement law and would result in a likely legal challenge and associated costs.

“Many of your service level agreements with CSUs will shortly be coming to an end and NHS England has already signalled that these should not be extended beyond April 2016,” the guidance says.

Thirty-five CCGs in the north of England are using the framework to bring in a new supplier after NHS England decided to close down their existing commissioning support unit.

However, three-quarters of CCGs have not yet begun to tender for a new support supplier.

Steve Kell, co-chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, said the amount of work associated with procuring support services distracted CCGs from their core business.

He said: “Where CCGs are using [lead provider framework] suppliers they are doing so based on what fits their local needs and where a CSU can add value. There may be a range of reasons for those that haven’t yet come forward and used the [framework], which could include readiness, need or quality of support on offer.”

Dr Kell added that there are still “a number of unresolved issues that we are pushing NHS England for clarity on, such as VAT and stranded costs”.

NHS England still expects contracts totalling £3bn-5bn to be let via the framework. So far only one £9m contract has been signed.

A spokeswoman for NHS England said: “It is the commissioner’s decision on when they procure. We have advised them of the risk and that they should be considering or in the process of retendering their existing [service level agreements] to mitigate any legal challenge being raised.” 

Commissioning support procurements in play

The following procurements are currently under way via the lead provider framework:

  • Cheshire and Merseyside: (Halton, Knowsley, Liverpool, South Sefton, Southport and Formby, St Helens, South Cheshire, Warrington, West Cheshire, Wirral, Eastern Cheshire, and Vale Royal CCGs)
  • Yorkshire and the Humber: (Airedale, Wharfedale and Craven, Barnsley, Bassetlaw, Bradford City, Bradford Districts, Calderdale CCG, Doncaster, East Riding of Yorkshire, Greater Huddersfield , Leeds North, Leeds South and East, Leeds West, North Kirklees, Rotherham, Sheffield, Vale of York, Wakefield, Hambleton, Richmondshire and Whitby, Harrogate and Rural District, Hull, North East Lincolnshire, and North Lincolnshire CCGs)
  • Birmingham and the Black Country: (Birmingham Cross City, Birmingham South and Central, Dudley, Sandwell and West Birmingham, Solihull, Walsall, and Wolverhampton CCGs)
  • Worcestershire: (Redditch and Bromsgrove, South Worcestershire, and Wyre Forest CCGs)

The following procurement is expected to start soon:

  • South east London: (Bexley, Bromley Greenwich, Lambeth, Lewisham, and Southwark CCGs)

So far only one procurement has been completed:

  • South Lincolnshire: (South Lincolnshire and South East Lincolnshire CCGs)