A report released today unveiled the challenges faced by commissioning support units (CSUs) come April 1.
The soft-intelligence report features in-depth interviews from 18 of the 19 CSU managing directors.
Supporting Structures: A soft intelligence report on CSUs outlines the structures and strategies of the new organisations that help NHS bodies procure goods and services, including budgets and lists of core clinical commissioning group (CCG) customers.
"Commissioning support units have the potential to be the engine rooms of the new NHS if they win the backing of their CCGs,” said Victoria Vaughan, lead researcher and editor-in-chief of Campden Health.
She said: "Changes in vacancies and, alarmingly, managing directors were still taking place in the last weeks of March but the report is as up to date as possible.
"Commissioning support units have the potential to be the engine rooms of the new NHS if they win the backing of their CCGs. It seems likely that any private sector company that wants to work with the NHS will need to do so through these CSUs."
CSUs depend entirely on CCGs for income, rather than having guaranteed budgets like their predecessors, primary care trusts (PCT).
The report reveals the challenges they face such as the culture shift required of staff to work in a more commercial environment. The managing director of Arden CSU believes the number of staff who come from a PCT background could prove challenging.
Rachel Pearce said: “Keeping that customer focus and not being the lead commissioner is a journey our staff have to take."
CSUs will be ‘hosted’ by NHS England (formerly the NHS Commissioning Board) until 2016 after which they will become private companies, partnerships or social enterprises – but exact details of acceptable models are yet to be released.
CCGs do not have to work with CSUs but the advantage is that they can make savings by commissioning at scale.
It also gives insight into the views on private sector involvement, an issue that has featured heavily in public discussions about the NHS reforms.
North of England CSU MD, Stephen Childs said: "When you provide a full complement of commissioning we know that some service lines can run at a loss. Why would a company come into that when they can cherry-pick the best bits?"
The full 40-page report is available here.
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