CCGs to set out timetables for buying commissioning support services in £570m market

CCGs will this autumn set out their intentions and timetables for securing commissioning support services in a market expected to be worth £570 million.

The request is contained in an NHS England consultation document entitled Towards Commissioning Excellence: A strategy for commissioning support services launched last week at the Commissioning Show by Bob Ricketts, NHS England's director of commissioning support strategy and market development.

He said: 'There will be a market-based approach for choosing commissioning support units (CSUs). One of the key decisions for CCGs will be whether to buy services independently or jointly with other buyers where collaboration could drive better quality.' CCGs might also choose a lead provider allowing a range of other services to be commissioned.

The document says the market is currently 'very immature' and dominated by 19 CSUs employing 9,000 staff spun out from PCTs that will be hosted by NHS England and the NHS Business Services Authority until no later than 2016.

It describes commissioning support services as including health needs assessments, business intelligence (patient activity and clinical outcomes), support for redesign, communications, procurement and market management, provider management and business support including back office functions.

CCGs are expected to spend £570 million but it estimates the value of the entire market as £1 billion.

It says excellent commissioning support services will free up clinical commissioners to focus on where they most add value.

CCGs currently have service level agreements with CSUs which are not legally binding. These will not be extended beyond September 2014, or a year later in special circumstances.

The NHS England document adds: 'Some CCGs are concerned that the expiry of service level agreements with CSUs at the end of September 2014 does not give adequate time to undertake competitive procurements to secure new contracts to run from October 2014.'

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