Configuration of NHS communications and engagement services agreed

The high level configuration of the fourth set of ‘scale’ commissioning support services – communications and engagement services – has been agreed. Four communications collaboratives will go forward with a lead commissioning support unit (CSU) in each:

Communications collaborative Lead CSU
North of England West Yorkshire CSU
Midlands and East of England Birmingham, Black Country and Solihull CSU
London North West London CSU
South of England Commissioning Support South CS

Proposals for scale arrangements for communications and engagement services were reviewed by the Communications and Engagement Oversight Group, set up by the NHS Commissioning Board Authority, in July. Evidence was considered against the four standards of leadership, people, process and partnerships, and proposals were supported by presentations from the SHA cluster directors of communications and directors of commissioning development.

Following this there have been further discussions to determine the collaborative arrangements and work is underway to develop how the collaboratives will operate.

All CSUs planning to provide communications and engagement services, whether locally or at scale, will now have their proposals tested through their full business plans at Checkpoint 3 and should demonstrate their involvement in a communications collaborative whether or not they intend to buy at scale services from the lead CSU.

The arrangements will then be subject to the further checkpoints and the approval of the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) later in the year. They are also subject to the need to work closely with the NHS CB to ensure its specified communications and engagement needs are met once these have been set out.

All communications collaboratives will be expected to operate within a framework of agreed principles that include a clear mission statement and terms of reference, leadership by one CSU and a dedicated individual or core group to ensure all members are communicating effectively. The lead CSU will need to meet required standards as a supplier and will also need to ensure the quality of professional communications leadership across the collaborative.