A major procurement of commissioning support services in the north of England has been delayed after an initial lack of interest from suppliers.

  • Yorkshire and Humber commissioning support procurement deadline extended
  • CCGs seek to significantly reduce spending on external support services
  • Only one supplier initially interested, say sources

The procurement covers the 23 Yorkshire and Humber clinical commissioning groups, and is one of the first efforts by a group of CCGs to use NHS England’s lead provider framework to select a new supplier of “end to end” support services.

HSJ understands the CCGs are seeking to buy services worth only a fraction of the value they previously spent on the Yorkshire and Humber commissioning support unit. This CSU is being shut down after NHS England rejected its bid for inclusion on the framework. CCGs are understood to have given an indicative value of the services to be procured of less than £20m per year.

In 2013-14, the same CCGs spent more than £85m on support services, suggesting they are planning to bring many in house, or pay significantly less for what they receive than at present, or a combination of the two.

Several sources with knowledge of the situation told HSJ there had been little interest from suppliers, with only one organisation – North of England CSU – known to be likely to submit a bid.

The deadline for suppliers to bid has been extended by five weeks to 26 October in the hope there is more interest.

Those running the process are aiming for the Yorkshire and Humber CCGs to have a new support services supplier by next spring.

An NHS England spokesman said: “The Yorkshire and Humber procurement process remains open to bidders, the deadline has simply been extended to ensure the highest possible standard of submissions. The overall quality and price criteria have remained the same throughout the process.”

HSJ reported last week that another procurement under the leader provider framework, in the south west, had been halted for a year, after CCGs identified a number of serious concerns with NHS England’s process.

Steve Kell, co chair of NHS Clinical Commissioners, whose own CCG in Bassetlaw is part of the Yorkshire and Humber procurement, said: “It is important to remember that the framework is not a strategy in itself, but a mechanism for ensuring that CCGs can access high quality and cost effective commissioning support services… what it can’t do is ensure high quality outcomes for patients.

“We need to learn from the experience of those CCGs who have been working with the lead provider framework, to ensure CCGs can access excellent commissioning support.” He also emphasised the need for CCGs not to be “unduly distracted from their core duties of commissioning”.

The first contract for full “end to end” support services under the lead provider framework, in Lincolnshire, is set to be awarded by the end of the month. These CCGs are jointly using the lead provider framework to procure services. HSJ understands support suppliers had previously expected this contract to be awarded earlier in September.

NHS England said final sign off of the Lincolnshire contract would happen after a “standstill” period.

Further procurements are also expected from CCGs in Birmingham and Worcestershire.