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EXCLUSIVE: Troubled CSU to close

EXCLUSIVE: Troubled CSU to close

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‘Challenges’ and low customer satisfaction have led to a commissioning support unit (CSU) going into a ‘period of stabilisation’, with closure or a merger imminent.

Surrey and Sussex CSU has had three managing directors over the past year, losing five CCG contracts in just under five months.

Speaking exclusively to The Commissioning Review, a spokesperson for the CSU said: “We have come to the conclusion that [we] are not sustainable as an independent CSU.”

Back in November 2012 local commissioners revealed concerns about the CSU which has lost 50 staff and saw a 500,000 drop in the number of patients whose care it supports, according to the latest figures.

NHS England announced it will be working with Surrey and Sussex CSU to find a solution that “meets the needs of their customers”.

However, more upheaval is possible in the coming weeks.

An NHS England spokesperson said: “The CSU will continue to provide services to their customers and ensure business continuity in the immediate term until a longer term solution is put in place.”

Ten CCGs currently use Surrey and Sussex CSU to deliver services such as human resources, IMT and procurement advice to their organisation.

Surrey and Sussex was keen to reassure its CCG customers that there will be ‘no short term change.”

The spokesperson said: “We will continue to deliver services to CCGs over the coming months as we determine the future model and make any required transition.” 

The news was “disappointing” to Phil Orwin, chief officer of Guildford and Waverley CCG, who uses the service.

However the operating model for Guildford and Waverley CCG does not include procuring many services from the CSU.

Orwin said: “This decision has not impacted in any way on our ability to provide improved health outcomes and commission high quality healthcare for our population.”

However, East Surrey CCG relies heavily on the CSU.

The CCGs’ chair, Dr Joe McGilligan agreed with Orwin that the decision was “deeply saddening.”

He added: “The staff have been through huge upheaval, with multiple managing directors and now they face either a merger or closure.”

“As far as my CCG is concerned we will work to get the best solution for the CCG to serve our patients.”

A spokesperson for Surrey and Sussex said: “[We are] considering opportunities for mergers.”

The CSU claims it has had “ongoing dialogue” with neighbouring commissioning support units, yet when speaking to CSU South, a neighbouring organisation with an estimated turnover of £24 million, the idea of a merger is less than likely.

When asked if CSU South had any plans to merge with Surrey and Sussex, performance and development director Mark Smith answered with an emphatic “No.”

He explained: “What’s important for NHS South CSU is that CCGs are able to make a positive choice about the CSU they use.

“Therefore we’d be much more in favour of CCGs exercising their choice that simply being landed with a CSU through a merger.”

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