PCT clusters asked to review commissioning support capacity

Over the next month, PCT Clusters have been asked to review their current commissioning support capacity and capability as part of a wider business review process.

The first phase of the review, a ‘stocktake’ of the current capacity and capability in the system, will provide a snapshot of commissioning support capability which will help to inform local decisions about the future of commissioning support services.

Commissioning support is the support that GP consortia will be able to buy in or share with other organisations to help them to carry out their commissioning functions. Most of the current commissioning support capability in England resides in PCTs. However, there are also a number of other commissioning support organisations, for example the Commissioning Support Units, which were set up to build commercial commissioning skills in the NHS. A number of commercial, local authority, civil society and other organisations also provide support to PCTs as well as some niche services.

In order to develop high quality commissioning support it will be essential for GP consortia and PCT clusters to work together to define their requirements. Emerging GP consortia will need to decide how they will deliver their functions, and the commissioning support they will need to do that effectively. Decisions about what can be done ‘in-house’ and what needs to be done externally will be complicated. It is unlikely, even in the largest GP consortia that everything will be done in house, for smaller GP consortia it is more likely that commissioning support will be bought in or shared with other consortia.

The business review will help emerging consortia and PCT clusters to identify strategic requirements, risks and gaps, and focus on those areas where additional skills and capability are required. There is no expectation that commissioning support will necessarily have the same geographical or functional footprints as clusters and their constituent PCTs.

The Directors of Commissioning Development in SHAs and the Commissioning Support team at DH will continue to work closely with GP Pathfinders and national Primary Care bodies to ensure that there are a range of commissioning support services available that will meet the needs of GP consortia. Regular updates about the development of commissioning support services will be posted here on the Pathfinder Learning Network.

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