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Health data services to come from local suppliers

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A leaked NHS Commissioning Board document suggests the majority of data “intelligence” services supplied to clinical commissioning groups will have to be provided by local commissioning support units, rather than on a national scale.

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High-level business intelligence services will account for no more than 4% of the total running cost of CCGs, the guidance indicates.

The document, obtained by LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal, also says a standalone commissioning support service is being set up for communications and that a “free market” approach will be taken to back office functions.

The document, published early in April, says business intelligence services should be priced at 50p-£1 per head of population. This compares with the total CCG running cost allowance of £25 per head. It means no more than £50m per year will be spent on “scale” business intelligence functions, or less than £230,000 per CCG per year, based on 220 CCGs.

The document defines business intelligence providers as “data management and integration centres that provide data validation, integration and storage” and work to “cleanse, validate and link national and local data sets”.

Derek Felton, executive director at Ernst and Young, which is working with the Department of Health on the development of commissioning support services, said: “Some things do not have economies of scale. CCGs will need much more than data integration – they need very strong information analysis, but that needs to be done more locally.”

HSJ understands the communications service is being led by Stephanie Hood, former South East Coast communications director, and is undergoing the same authorisation process as the 25 commissioning support services currently being set up by primary care trust clusters.

Like other commissioning support services, it will be hosted by the NHS Commissioning Board from April 2013 until no later than 2016, when it will become a standalone private or voluntary sector organisation. The communications commissioning support service will also be able to enter into a commercial partnership or joint venture arrangement with a non-NHS body.

NHS commissioning support services have no choice but to use the national service if they wish to supply communications services to their CCGs.

The board document stresses that commissioning support services wishing to provide services such as IT support, finance, human resources and payroll functions will have to meet “private industry standards”.

A commissioning board spokeswoman said this was because there was “an existing large and mature market for business support services that many existing NHS organisations are already procuring their business support services from”.

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