Two commissioning support units in London are planning an alliance that could lead to a full merger, it was announced today.

South London and North West London CSUs said they were exploring how they could improve their services by collaborating.

Staff at the two CSUs were told about the plans yesterday. HSJ understands the two leadership teams are considering a options ranging from a full merger to a “partnership” model.

Under the latter, the two units would contract with each other as suppliers where this would result in a better service overall.

The alliance would “increase the quality, scope and value of their offer to CCGs, NHS England and other commissioners”, a joint statement from the CSUs said today. Discussions are “at an early stage”, it said.

The two CSUs’ managing directors were previously both chief executives of neighbouring primary care trust clusters in north west London.

North West London CSU managing director Sarah Whiting said: “Our organisations each have unique strengths, and combining these could help our customers drive the improvements in patient outcomes they are striving for.

“It could also create a sustainable business that will be well placed to compete in the emerging commissioning support market.”

South London CSU managing director Nick Relph said: “We are going to look at where and how we could bring greater value to our customers and offer more rewarding careers for our staff. 

“We think this is worth exploring at a time when commissioners have a growing need to access expertise to help them transform local health and healthcare.”

The CSUs will discuss the issue with customers and staff in the summer and develop the plans in the autumn.

South London CSU employs 450 staff and supports 15 CCGs in London and Surrey.

North West London CSU employs 400 staff and supports eight CCGs in North West London.

There are currently 18 CSUs in England and further mergers are widely expected in the sector in the next two years.

Earlier this month NHS England published its strategy for the commissioning support sector. It emphasised the need for CSUs to improve services by becoming more networked. In some cases CSUs will be encouraged to use one another as suppliers, through an accreditation regime.