Roll up! Roll up! The NHS sale continues...

CCGs are at the forefront of the huge NHS reorganisation that we were told by David Cameron would never happen under his watch.

There are three letters on the lips of everyone closely associated with CCGs at the moment - these three letters are CSU. These letters stand for Commissioning Support Units and you would be forgiven for not having heard much about them as they are quietly getting on with the job they have been tasked to do by the huge behemoth that is the National Commissioning Board.

CSUs have been set up and separate ones are running in every part of the English NHS. They were first described in late 2011 but not a great deal has been said about them, however it is vital we let more people know about them.

CCGs have been tasked to provide healthcare for local communities on an absolute pittance of a budget compared to what PCTs used to have available to spend on patients.

First mooted by the Dept of Health in late 2011 when the Health Bill was seeing more and more opposition CSUs were designed to provide 'support' to CCGs. This is a calculated move by the Dept of Health and National Commissioning Board - they always knew this 'outside' help would be needed for CCGs.

CSUs are well and truly in place now and are fully staffed - often with PCT staff who have moved on from their previous job. The CSUs provide vital back office support to CCGs on issues such as human resources, pay roll issues, patient engagement and more significantly provide help with major issues such as service redesign.

Now here is the nub of the issue and one which is a further example of the English NHS sell off we see all around us - the original document mentioned the fact these CSUs would be 'outsourced' by 2015. This of course means that they will set up their organisation, take on significant roles in locality commissioning and then they will be sold off to the private sector in 2015.

The CSU guidance can be found here and it screams of being made ready for sale to the highest bidder. Much talk of 'customers' and using the 'independent sector' - things you are more likely to hear in a Tesco management document rather than an NHS one.

It is another shocking example of how the NHS is being transformed into a saleable commodity - it is being fattened up ready for sale at the market! Once the City and management consultants get a grip on CSUs they will have control of a very influential part of the NHS that provides care for patients. It is well evidenced that introducing private companies into health care systems increases cost and reduces efficiency. Companies have to make profits to please their shareholders and directors. These profits could be reinvested in patient care or more nurses for example.

It is a shocking prospect and we should be lobbying MPs and policy makers to say this CSU sell off is wrong. It should not happen and we need a political commitment that CSUs will remain within the NHS and within the public sector.

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