Bob Ricketts, Director of Commissioning Support Strategy at NHS England, confirmed that the NHS had been in contact with various private firms to explore the possibility of investment in the CSUs.
“We have been talking to the investment community to sound out their interest in partnering and joint ventures,” said Ricketts, confirming that they had received “a lot of interest from commercial providers”.
CSUs, which provide services to CCGs, are part-subsidised by the NHS but were always envisaged to become independent entities by 2016, either by making a profit independently or by entering into joint ventures with public or private sector organisations.
Investors could provide back-office services or bid to take on the management of CSUs – though some private equity companies may consider complete takeovers, viewing the organisations as opportunities for profit and influence. One industry insider has estimated the combined worth of the 19 CSUs to be around £300m.
According to Ricketts, “There are no reasons these organisations couldn’t work in partnership or compete directly with CSUs. Most of the commercial providers are having a good look at it but they will reserve judgment until later in the year.”
This comes shortly after NHS England outlined new requirements for CSUs seeking accreditation, forcing many to seek partnerships in order to survive under the tougher regulations.