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NHS England’s transformation plans for the 111 service have been set back after it discovered many trusts were set to miss a key tech deadline.

A review found more than 50 trusts were behind schedule on introducing IT systems which could “book” patients from 111 into accident and emergency.

Trusts were told to have this technology in place by the end of March, but now NHSE has delayed this deadline after “hearing challenges” from trusts in achieving this goal. The deadline has already been put back several times.  

It comes as NHSE is reviewing the 111 service, having previously tried to give it a boosted role in triaging emergency patients and booking them into time slots in A&Es.

However, the Royal College of Emergency Medicine said it is “sceptical” that systems for booking patients into emergency care would be useful.

Seeing less of CSUs

NHS England is set to streamline the leadership of the four remaining commissioning support units, a move that may lead to further consolidations.

Earlier this month, the managing directors and senior teams were notified of the decision, with consultations on their future expected to commence in February.

The potential outcome could involve establishing a unified leadership team for all CSUs. The initiative is driven by NHSE’s ongoing restructuring and the requirement for integrated care boards to reduce running costs by 30 per cent before March 2025.

In addition to reviewing the leadership structure, NHSE aims to standardise and consolidate operations across the CSUs, anticipating improved support services for ICBs, NHSE itself and other NHS organisations. While merging the CSUs, which collectively employ over 6,000 staff, is not the immediate priority, there is acknowledgment of the possibility of reducing the number of CSUs to three, two, or even one.

NHSE chief delivery officer Steve Russell is leading the CSU changes as part of the broader NHSE restructuring. The four remaining CSUs were originally formed from mergers of business support units created in the early part of the last decade.

Arden and GEM CSU, Midlands and Lancashire CSU, North of England Care System Support, and South, Central, and West CSU are the units involved in this potential leadership consolidation.

Also on today

In North by North West, Lawrence Dunhill says Greater Manchester has admitted the game is up for its breakeven financial plan, “which it must now regret signing up to back in the summer, under pressure from regulators”. And our Mythbuster Steve Black says that even when it has the right ideas, the NHS tends to undervalue the importance of arguing for the necessary changes it requires.