Up to 300 commissioning support unit staff are facing redundancy under a job cuts programme being coordinated by NHS England.

HSJ has learned that a 45 day consultation over a new round of job losses began this month, and is being run by the overwhelming majority of CSUs.

Overall, about 3 per cent of the total CSU workforce is expected to be made compulsorily redundant, although some units will be hit harder than others. The CSU sector as a whole employs about 9,000 people, meaning up to 300 posts could be axed.

Two or three units, including the North of England CSU, are not planning to make any job cuts, while Central Midlands CSU is likely to lay off about 40 staff – 10 per cent of its workforce.

The redundancies relate to the disparity between the resources available to CSUs and the size of the workforce they inherited from primary care trusts when they went live in April last year. After nearly a year of operation, CSUs now have a clearer idea of how each service line they offer needs to be resourced, and how many staff they can afford for the income they are receiving.

CSUs are funded predominantly by their clinical commissioning group customers, via the £25 per head of population running cost allowance. However, they also receive income for services provided to NHS England, and other customers including local government and NHS provider trusts.

The current consultation is being coordinated by NHS England, but implemented locally by CSUs, based on where they believe redundancies are necessary.

NHS England is yet to release details of terms available to staff willing to take voluntary redundancy. However HSJ understands these are likely to be released by the end of the consultation period, in the second half of February.

The latest round of redundancies only relates to changes in CSU size or structure that have arisen in the current financial year.

Further job cuts are expected in 2015-16, when the CCG running cost allowance is expected to be cut by 10 per cent in line with a general reduction in the NHS administration budget.

It is also expected that some of the 17 existing CSUs could merge, prompted by the procurement framework currently under development by NHS England, which will impose a limit on the number of accredited CSU providers and is thought likely to set a high bar for quality of services. CSU mergers could also result in further job losses as functions are consolidated.

Jon Restell, chief executive of Managers in Partnership, said: “It’s good that NHS England is trying to ensure a consistency of approach… not every CSU is adequately resourced, so I can see why they need to make redundancies.”

But, he said, “my question is whether we are resourcing the work properly. CSU staff are already delivering above capacity – how sustainable is that?”

An NHS England spokesman: “We recognise that these are tough decisions that are being taken so that resource is focussed on frontline NHS services. CSUs are working hard to ensure that any colleagues affected by changes are fully engaged with and any decisions are subject to ongoing discussions and local consultations in conjunction with trade union representatives.”