STRUCTURE: Two commissioning support units have announced they are entering into a formal merger.

Greater Manchester and Cheshire and Merseyside CSUs will have a combined income of £80m.

As a single organisation, they will serve a population of more than 5 million across an area which includes 24 clinical commissioning groups, 898 GP practices, 3 NHS England area teams, 19 councils and 18 acute trusts.

Leigh Griffin, managing director of Greater Manchester CSU, said: “This is an ambitious move which will secure our place as a significant player in the North West health and social care economy and a give us a formidable national presence.

Cheshire and Merseyside’s managing director Tim Andrews said: “The merger of our two organisations means we can help answer this challenge much more effectively by drawing on the considerable combined talents of the teams across the region.”

CSUs across England have made arrangements to form networks, following the publication of NHS England guidance on the procurement framework for support services in October. The guidance states that a smaller number of CSUs will offer a full range of services than before.

By forming networks, CSUs hope to be entitled accreditation into NHS England’s “lead provider” framework.

CSUs who do not gain accreditation could only survive as subcontractors to the lead providers.

Decisions over which CSUs will be accredited as lead providers are expected to be made in the spring.

The only CSUs which have not entered into partnerships are North East London and the North of England.

However, HSJ understands the North of England CSU will enter a lone bid for accreditation onto the lead provider framework.