Three commissioning support units in the South have become the latest CSUs to announce plans for a merger.

The South, South West and Central Southern CSUs have said they intend to merge on 1 April this year to create South, Central and West Commissioning Support.

The South and South West CSUs have been working in partnership as the South and West Commissioning Support Alliance for the last 18 months, and have more recently started to work closely with the Central Southern CSU.

Between them, the organisations cover an area from Sussex to Cornwall and up to Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, and have more than 70 customers, including 37 clinical commissioning groups.

The CSUs provide a wide range of commissioning support services, serving a combined health community of over 10 million people.

 Jan Hull, managing director of South West Commissioning Support, said the proposed merger will “significantly increase the scale of our operations and our ability to develop innovative, high quality and cost effective services for our customers.”

“We firmly believe that by coming together we will be in the best position to retain and attract great staff, and develop the best solutions to the challenges that our customers face.”

Suzanne Tewkesbury, acting managing director of Central Southern CSU, said the proposed merger is positive news for its customers and will allow it to build on the links it has already established with the other two CSUs.

Keith Douglas, managing director of South CSU, said: “Coming together as the South, Central and West CSU will give us much greater flexibility and sustainability to respond to the future commissioning challenges set out in the ‘Five Year Forward View’ [NHS England’s plan to bridge the funding gap facing the health service by 2020-21].”

The plans will make the three organisations the latest of a series of CSUs to merge since they were set up in April 2013.

In November last year, NHS Greater East Midlands Commissioning Support Unit and NHS Arden CSU announced plans for a merger, while in October the West and South Yorkshire and Bassetlaw CSU merged with North Yorkshire and Humber CSU as part of plans to create a £90m NHS business.

In June 2014, NHS England announced that nine CSU “alliances” had been set up, based on a mix of partnerships and merging CSUs.

All alliances put in bids to become part of NHS England’s lead provider framework, which will allow clinical commissioning groups to purchase services on a ‘call-off’ basis.

Originally, the Department of Health estimated that between 25 and 35 CSUs could be set up to provide services to clinical commissioning groups from April 2013. That number has steadily declined since.