Commissioning support units (CSUs) will not be privatised when they are made independent in 2016 under new plans released by NHS England. The privatisation of CSUs was being considered but, due to the lack of clinical commissioning group (CCG) support, NHS England’s board report has ruled out the option of selling CSUs.

Another reason for rejecting a wholesale sell off of CSUs is “given the early stage in the development of the CSS market and the consequent uncertainty about the value of the CSUs, there would be a significant risk that the NHS would be giving away value to the private sector buyer”.

NHS England will consult nationally on four structural options for securing autonomy for CSUs to select from:

  • Social enterprise
  • Staff mutua
  • Customer controlled social enterprise; or
  • Joint venture

It adds that NHS England should prepare guidance for CSUs on the "process to autonomy", including a locally led public consultation when each unit is ready to submit its application to NHS England. For most CSUs, this is expected to be in late 2015 or early 2016.

NHS England is also creating a lead provider framework for CCGs to buy support services. A number of CSUs are looking to merge or work in ‘alliance’ in order to secure a place on the framework.