Commissioning support services that want to deliver ‘at scale’ IT support and business intelligence services must pass separate tests from the NHS Commissioning Board next month.

A document issued by the board says the tests in May will assess the ability of commissioning support units to deliver against defined standards.

It will also check that they have the capability and expertise required, and that the cost structure is appropriate and sustainable.

The document says ‘at scale’ business intelligence costs should range between 50p to £1 for populations of between 3m and 5m, equivalent to 4% of clinical commissioning groups’ £25 per head running costs.

It defines business intelligence as “data management and integration centres that provide data validation, integration and storage.”

The NHS CB says any new investment to establish an integration centre will be subject to a business case review by its Business Support Unit.

The expectation is that infrastructure to deliver ‘at scale’ service is already available and additional investment should be minimised.

Last month Barbara Hakin, national director of commissioning development, said there are likely to be between 20 and 25 local CSSs and four ‘at scale’ offerings.

The ‘at scale’ offers are likely to include one CSS covering four clusters and 12 PCTs in NHS North East and one CSS covering six clusters and 11 PCTs in the Greater East Midlands.

IT support is included in a separate test on business support that also covers other functions such as HR and payroll.

The document says commissioning support services will need to show such functions meet “private industry benchmarks” and demonstrate cost savings for CCGs as well as quality benefits.

The NHS CB’s Business Support Unit has been assessing the outline plans of CSSs, and at an event last week Dame Barbara said some were likely to fail the latest ‘gateway’.

This includes tests for ‘customer focus’, to address concerns expressed by some CCGs that they are not being given a choice of support service.

There will be additional tests for those wanting to offer business intelligence, business support and procurement services next month.

Managing directors for the new organisations should be appointed in June and detailed business plans are expected to be agreed by the end of August.