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NHS England announces vision for future of commissioning support services


NHS England has announced its roadmap for supporting the development of high quality, cost effective support services for NHS commissioners.

Towards commissioning excellence: a strategy for commissioning support services’  sets out the building blocks for developing a vibrant market that enables Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs) and other commissioners to choose from best-in-class providers from the public, voluntary and independent sector.

An effective market will bring strong incentives for commissioning support providers to be responsive to their customers’ needs, to develop innovative services that enable CCGs to drive improvements in patient services and provide value for money.

Rosamond Roughton, NHS England’s National Director for Commissioning Development, said: "The NHS needs to rapidly evolve so we have a system which is equipped to meet the demands of modern healthcare.

"If commissioning is to deliver better value for money and better quality and outcomes for patients, it must be taken to a new level – clinically led, professional and streamlined.

"This means being capable of securing quality today whilst leading the transformation of services for tomorrow. Commissioners will not be able to achieve this on their own. It’s important that CCGs retain their clinical focus, and are lean and agile organisations supported by excellent at scale and affordable commissioning support services.

"Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) are already making a difference around the country. For example, in the North of England, the CSU, as a member of the Northern CCG Forum, has mapped out common commissioning priorities to support collaboration across a number of services. It has also developed a business intelligence system to ensure commissioning decisions are underpinned by a strong evidence base. It is this kind of pragmatic and considered approach that this strategy will build on and develop.

"Truly transformational change won’t happen by accident and there needs to be a real understanding of support needs, where to access the best services to meet this need and to help stimulate the market to ensure this is achieved. This strategy is taking the first practical steps towards making this a reality and I am delighted to announce its launch today.”

There are three key elements to the strategy:

1. Enabling CCGs to exercise informed choice of how they source their commissioning support and from whom.  The first step towards this is the launch of a new ’choice app’ for CCGs which is being demonstrated at the Commissioning Show in London today (12 June).

2. Building a strong cohort of excellent commissioning support providers. NHS Commissioning Support Units (CSUs) are currently the mainstay of commissioning support. NHS England is committed to investing in their development, encouraging and enabling partnership working and collaboration, and assuring their development with the aim of CSUs being autonomous by no later than 2016.

To strengthen collaboration between NHS CSUs and the voluntary sector, a partnership agreement has just been signed between the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO) and CSUs so that CCGs benefit from a wider range of support.

Rosamond Roughton added, "Voluntary organisations have a wealth of experience and expertise and this strategy recognises the need to work more closely together. I am delighted that the CSU network and ACEVO have signed a partnership agreement to stimulate closer working and sharing expertise. This will enable CSUs to strengthen their offer to CCGs in areas such as patient involvement, needs assessment and service redesign”

Sir Stephen Bubb, Chief Executive of the Association of Chief Executives of Voluntary Organisations (ACEVO), said: "It is essential that the voluntary and public sectors work together to share their knowledge, experience and expertise. The voluntary sector has a vital role to play in supporting commissioners to shape services around the needs and priorities of service users. Consequently I am delighted that we are able to announce this partnership agreement with the CSU Network, which demonstrates our joint commitment to working closely together to deliver the best services we can.”

A similar partnership arrangement, between CSUs and NHS Improving Quality (NHSIQ) has also been put in place to drive forward the development of transformational support for commissioners.

3. Ensuring the establishment of simple, efficient procurement mechanisms which enable fair and open competition.  Alongside the strategy, NHS England has also published a procurement guide which explains the process commissioners need to follow should they wish to choose an alternative commissioning support provider. In addition, to ensure the NHS adopts the best approach to procurement, NHS England has also today launched an engagement exercise with  key stakeholders on proposed options to support CCGs and others to procure commissioning support simply and effectively, for example through new framework agreements.

In the autumn, NHS England will publish an update on the progress made across the key building blocks of the strategy along with the second stage of  the strategy to describe  the process and next steps for giving NHS CSUs full autonomy.

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