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NHS support groups recruit from wider pool

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Around a quarter of staff appointed to the new NHS commissioning support units - the groups set up to provide back-office services to GP commissioning groups - have come from outside the pool of staff affected by the health service’s reorganisation.

Health reporting HSJ and LGC logo

The most recent NHS data, shared with LGC’s sister title Health Service Journal, shows that around 7,000 appointments had been made to CSUs by the end of January, with 1,500 posts still to be filled.

Of the appointments made, more than half were filled through direct transfers of staff working in organisations set for abolition in April, primarily primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. A further 20% were filled via competitions between staff affected by change.

However around 25% of staff appointed have either come from outside the NHS, or from parts of the NHS not affected by last year’s Health Act, such as provider trusts.

One senior CSU source told HSJ the mix of expertise in the new organisations was different to that of primary care trusts and strategic health authorities. CSUs had smaller teams in corporate functions, but had expanded contracting, analytics and finance departments.

“There’s a paradox of an overall headcount reduction but significant increases in some bits of the business, hence the need to recruit from outside,” the source said.

There is also concern some posts in the new organisations are being left unfilled.

The leader of a CSU told HSJ their organisation was aiming for a vacancy rate of 10%, to enable the business to “flex up or flex down” if clinical commissioning groups ask them to change the services they provide.

The move to recruit staff not affected by the transition is in spite of there being thousands of staff still without jobs in the new commissioning structure.

Managers in Partnership chief executive Jon Restell said 4,000 NHS staff put at risk by the transition were still without a job with just six weeks before primary care trusts and strategic health authorities are abolished.

Mr Restell warned CSUs and clinical commissioning groups against keeping vacancies open unnecessarily.

He told HSJ: “Appointable candidates should be given jobs. High vacancy rates are high risk for organisations who need to hit the ground running in April.”

The CSU sources HSJ spoke to said they had not rejected suitable candidates in the hope of recruiting someone from outside the NHS transition.

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