The Department of Health has drafted in consultancy Ernst and Young to develop a support programme for commissioning support leaders.

A letter sent by the DH to primary care trust clusters late last week said a “rapid but broad review” would take place as commissioning support organisations prepare their outline business plans, due to be submitted to strategic health authorities by the end of March.

“We have commissioned Ernst & Young to support us in carrying out these reviews”, the letter said. “Ernst and Young… will not carry out any assessment role and therefore their support will add significant value to our review.”

The consultants will assess commissioning support services on: early versions of their business plans; the strength of their leadership; their focus on customers; their commercial “mind set”.

Documents accompanying the letter also emphasise that “there are many highly skilled and experienced staff in commissioning support roles in PCTs”.

The papers say: “It is very important that this expertise is retained for the benefit of CCGs. In some cases these are specialist and high technical skills which are not readily available in the independent or other sectors, and will not be easily replaced.”

However the numbers of CSS staff will largely depend on how CCGs decide to operate, and the extent to which they decide to bring services in-house, or share or buy-in support services.