Jane Carter

A national voice for members in CSUs

Mon 14 Aug 2017

With mergers and the loss of some contracts to the private sector, members in CSUs need MiP’s support more than ever. National officer Jane Carter explains how the union makes sure their voice is heard at national level.

The CSU partnership forum sub-group was set up to enable detailed discussion between unions, employers and NHS England on organisational change affecting Commissioning Support Units, as well as national issues which arise from time to time, such as funding, STPs and workforce policies. 

The group is part of NHS England’s industrial relations framework and is therefore subject to the same terms of reference as other national partnership forums. CSU staff are employees of the Business Services Authority (BSA) – an arm’s length body of NHS England – and CSU staff are hosted by the BSA under a memorandum of understanding.

MiP have two representatives on the group, myself and Phil Kennedy from NEL CSU, which supports Clinical Commissioning Groups (CCGs), mainly in London and the home counties. We are there to gather information and take part in consultations and negotiations with CSU managers on matters relating to employment and the implications of planned organisation change. We stand up for managers and make their voices heard.

This work is important because there is no other forum where NHS England can inform and negotiate with trade unions at a national level on matters affecting CSUs. Working with NHS England, we try to emulate and enhance the good partnership relationships that already exist in many local CSUs.

At our meetings, the group receives and ratifies CSU policies which have passed through the policy sub-group of the National Partnership Forum, and we receive reports from every CSU. The CSUs group has successfully challenged local processes for redundancies and TUPE transfers from one CSU to another, as well as the process under which CSUs became autonomous in 2016. We were also engaged locally in the winding up of the Yorkshire and Humber CSU, including the transfer of staff to the eMBED consortium, which wone the contract to provide services to the region’s CCGs.

When they were set up as part of the Lansley reforms in 2013, there were 19 CSUs, but as a result of mergers and the functions of some being taken over by Kier Group and other private providers, only six remain. CSUs are no longer geographically defined, which means in some cases their customers are local or regional clinical commissioners, and in others they include CCGs in other parts of England. Some CSUs also provide services to NHS England, local government and acute trusts. It also means CSUs are competitively positioned to work at scale across a wide geographical footprint.

The most successful CSUs will have the ability to be flexible in response to the changing NHS climate as well as being able to market themselves successfully to win contracts from trusts. 

As a result, the future of CSUs depends on widening the scope of their work to offer support to the new regional collaborations being created by STPs. There is an important role for CSUs to playing in developing robust partnerships, developing new ways of working and identifying the key drivers of local health priorities – and how these can be addressed for each STP footprint. .

  • If you want to know more about the work of the group, or about MiP’s support for members working in CSUs, contact Jane at j.carter@miphealth.org.uk.


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