NHS England (“NHSE”) has sent a letter to CCGs to advise them that the deadline for tendering commissioning support services will now be pushed back until April 2016. This comes just over two months after it published guidance for CCGs which set the target date for formally procuring commissioning support services as September 2014.

NHSE’s previous guidance titled “Towards commissioning excellence: a strategy for commissioning support services” (“Guidance”) was intended to set out a clear strategy for procuring such services. The Guidance required CCGs to replace existing non-binding Service Level Agreements (“SLAs”) held with Commissioning Support Units (“CSUs”) with legally binding contracts “won in fair and open competition”. NHSE advised that SLAs should not be extended beyond September 2014 except in certain exceptional circumstances.

CCGs were also told that they should set out their commissioning intentions and timetables in autumn 2013.

NHSE’s letter to CCG is not clear as to what effect delaying the requirement to tender for commissioning support services until April 2016 will have on the wider timetable for transforming the commissioning support landscape.

CSUs were formed from the now abolished PCTS and are currently hosted by NHSE. NHSE’s intention is for CSUs to become fully autonomous commercial organisations by 2016. NHSE’s aim is to create a market-place for commissioning support services whereby CCGs have a choice of organisations capable of providing these services. So the fully autonomous CSUs will compete with other organisations to win contracts for commissioning support services.

Further updated guidance is expected from NHSE in the Autumn which should hopefully explain how this delay will affect the wider timetable for NHSE’s planned transformation of commissioning support.