NHS England is to consolidate the leadership of the four remaining commissioning support units in a move which could also lead to further mergers.
The managing directors and senior teams were informed of the decision earlier this month and consultation on their future is expected to begin in February. HSJ understands this could result in a single leadership team for all CSUs.
As well as reviewing the leadership of the four units, NHSE is keen to standardise and consolidate operations across the CSUs. It argues this will provide better support services for integrated care boards, for NHSE itself – as a significant user of CSU services – and for other NHS organisations, sources close to the process told HSJ.
HSJ understands that merging the organisations, which employ over 6,000 staff, is not the priority. However, rationalising the number of CSUs to three, two or even one is acknowledged as a possibility by those involved.
NHSE’s decision is driven by its own ongoing restructuring and rationalisation, and by the requirement for ICBs to cut their running costs by 30 per cent before March 2025. HSJ understands some ICBs have complained that what they said was a competitive nature of the services offered by the CSUs was ineffective, and want either to develop support services in-house or to get a more distinctive and focused offer from CSUs.
The CSU changes, as with the wider NHSE restructure, are led by NHSE chief delivery officer Steve Russell.
The four remaining CSUs were formed from mergers of what were initially 20-plus business support units created to work with the now abolished clinical commissioning groups in the early part of the last decade. The original idea to float them off as standalone businesses was quickly abandoned, and they have been steadily disbanded or merged since.
Date: 29 January