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Meeting the challenge


12 February 2016

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NEL CSU explains how it can help its clients to deliver the aspirations of the Five Year Forward View 

NEL CSU explains how it can help its clients to deliver the aspirations of the Five Year Forward View 

Building a more modern NHS that is flexible and responsive to patient needs is the challenge set down by NHS England in its Five Year Forward View. It’s a challenge NEL Commissioning Support Unit (CSU) (formerly known as North and East London CSU) is more than happy to accept.
Set up in April 2013 to serve 12 London clinical commissioning groups (CCGs), NEL CSU has more than doubled in size and now provides services to 32 CCGs across London, Essex, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Bedford, Luton and East Anglia. Therefore, representing more than eight million people.
We also deliver a range of support services and bespoke solutions to healthcare organisations across England, including hospital trusts, GP practices, mental health trusts, NHS England, local authorities and health and justice facilities. NEL CSU has more than 1,200 staff working for us across London and the east of England. That’s a lot of expertise to draw upon for our clients and affords us the luxury of being able to explore other areas of work.

Down to business
We’re now, for example, working with the health and justice sector to support IT services in prisons in London, Norwich and the east of England as well as Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedford and other police and justice custody suites. NEL CSU will support the national roll out of a new computer system and the recruitment of a supplier to provide that system in all English and Welsh prisons. We are currently auditing 130 prison sites in England and Wales before a new system is installed. The opportunity to join up systems to improve patient care amongst the prison population through our work around IT and clinical and integrated systems is a good one for us.
ICT has been a strong growth area for NEL CSU and our ICT team continues to develop. Having recently won a contract to provide IT service management to support Ipswich and East Suffolk and West Suffolk CCGs and their associated GP practices and community health providers, we’ve taken on extra staff. We’ve also gained on new staff to work with us on the registration authority and NHS mail contract for NHS England, and other CCGs. We now have IT staff working in Norfolk and Essex as well as London.
Bringing in new people from other providers when we win new contracts can be unsettling, but NEL CSU offers great opportunities to new staff and values the new skills and knowledge they bring with them.
While our organisation may have changed considerably over the past three years, our values have remained the same – we are here to support commissioners and healthcare providers to make a real difference for the populations they serve. That ethos helps define the decisions we make about what sort of work we do – health and justice along with learning disabilities being just two areas we have identified recently where patients deserve as much support as anyone else, and which have been neglected areas of health.
As the needs of our clients change, so too does NEL CSU. We adapt to absorb those changes, providing new services and new innovations that benefit our customers and their patients.  

The set up
Our NEL Healthcare Consulting team, set up in 2015, is in constant demand, providing services and expertise to clients throughout the country. We have a core consulting team of 73 people to draw on, as well as an extensive network of specialist associates and partners we can use as we need to. From programme leadership and design through to change management, service design and transformation and deep dives, the team is multi-skilled.
Our approach is to pool expertise to ensure we assign the right people with the right skills at the right time to deliver high-quality services. A new contract the team has won recently will see them support NHS England Armed Forces Health’s national engagement campaign, another part of the healthcare system we are keen to work in and that fits well within our values and ethos.
Our specialist business intelligence team is growing too, providing the intelligence from data that our customers need to make better decisions about how they spend taxpayers’ money. Because we are part of the NHS and operating at scale, we can afford to invest and improve the tools in response to our clients’ needs.

A secure future
There are always challenges for any NHS organisation, finances being the obvious one. There is no doubt that money is tight and many organisations are being stretched and having to look at how they can provide services more efficiently. We have faced many challenges in the past couple of years, as have all NHS organisations. One of our biggest challenges was securing our place on the Lead Provider Framework. Securing our spot on the Framework, however, has secured NEL CSU’s future.
And it’s that future we continue to focus on in looking at new and innovative ways we can add value and support our clients to deliver the aspirations of the Forward View.
It’s an exciting time to be part of the NHS. There are challenges, of course, but NEL CSU is in a strong position to face up to those challenges, working with the NHS for the NHS, ensuring better outcomes for patients.

Anne Whateley, director of strategy, business development and workforce, NEL CSU.

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