North of England Commissioning Support Unit

Managing Director's Report

Our first year of operations was about start-up – getting our new business on its feet, setting our vision and mission, defining our values, assembling the critical infrastructure, building relationships with our new customers and helping our people on board.

Managing Director’s Report Year two has been focused on continuous improvement, nurturing cultural change, securing our position in the market and preparing for the future. In the past twelve months, we asked great things of our people as we fought to establish NECS as the market leader for commissioning support (our stated mission), all the while ensuring we met the needs of our customers as their challenges became steeper, their resources more stretched and their relationships more complex.

Continuous improvement

Instilling continuous improvement as a cultural norm is our number one priority. We know our people cannot continue to work as hard as they have been. By eliminating waste, reducing re-work, duplication and over-production – we know we can make a huge impact on the quality of our working lives, the quality of our service and the experience of our customers.

In 2013-14, we established the foundations for the NECS Continuous Improvement System (NECS-CIS) In 2014-15, we concentrated on training our managers to ensure the whole organisation, at leadership level, had a common understanding of why continuous improvement was so important and what we meant by the NECS Continuous Improvement System.

During the year we established our Continuous Improvement Team of trained lean practitioners who began helping teams adopt the tools and techniques (root cause analysis, ‘vis walls’ for team focused performance management, Rapid Process Improvement Workshops and Kaizen) that will gradually see the NECS-CIS become embedded throughout our organisation. Some of our teams have become centres of excellence already, including our IT Service Help Desk (the only CSU with Service Desk Institute Accreditation), our Continuing Health Care service, our Complaints Management Service and our Financial Controlling Service.

Nurturing Cultural Change

Continuous improvement is just one, albeit fundamentally important, dimension of the cultural change underway in NECS. Over the last year we addressed the broader leadership challenge we face in making the organisation more customer centric, more focused on performance and more committed to demonstrating our values in everything we do and say.

We invested significantly in a bespoke leadership development programme that benefited over 100 managers with a sharp focus on performance improvement. We researched and designed the NECS Talent Management Programme, engaging extensively with people across our organisation, before launching at our Spring Conferences. At the heart of our approach to talent management is the translation of our values into behaviours. This is where engagement with our people has been most important and most rewarding.

Securing our position in the market

Our strategic objectives were three-fold. Firstly, to retain our existing business and minimise the risk of CCGs taking services back in-house; secondly, to retain control of our business and resist merger with another Commissioning Support Unit; thirdly, to secure sales to replace lost revenue and achieve growth of 2%.

We met or exceeded all of our three main strategic objectives. Our service level agreements were extended to March 2016 with all our core CCG customers and we experienced minimal in-housing of commissioning support services. This was in stark contrast to a number of peer CSUs who struggled to meet customer expectations and saw revenues decline significantly. We earned this loyalty through our commitment to service improvement, our preparedness to listen and make changes to our operating model and the tireless effort invested at all levels of the business in building trustworthy, intimate relationships.

Our reputation has been enhanced by independent recognition and awards from the Service Desk Institute, the Health Service Journal (Value and improvement in Commissioning Support Services), the HFMA (Finance Team of the Year (Northern Region) Runner-up and Accounting Technician of the Year) and the Chartered Institute of Public Relations (Health Campaign of the Year). “Against each priority we at least met our objective if not surpassed it.”

In 2014-15, many CSUs felt compelled to merge. On the basis that NECS could afford to determine its own destiny (on the grounds of its financial strength, service quality and level of customer satisfaction) we firmly resisted any pressure to assimilate ourselves with another CSU. We believe our position has been vindicated. We have avoided the distraction and potentially overwhelming burden of further re-organisation to concentrate on improving service for our existing customers and winning new business. Average Customer satisfaction rates have improved, with some customers giving us maximum scores (Cumbria CCG and NHS England). We increased our revenue to £66m, replacing all of our lost revenue from 2013-14 and comfortably exceeding our 2% growth target. Of particular note is the success we have achieved with RAIDR, our business intelligence application, which now serves over 20% of the CCGs and General Practices in England and the programmes of work we delivered for NHS England. We are also proud of the difference we made for patients across the country as a result of the national programmes we delivered: the national waiting list validation programme, the dementia diagnosis programme and the 111 Learning and Development pilots. We are so proud to see our vision and social purpose, to make life changing improvements to the health and wellbeing of communities by designing and delivering creative solutions for our customers, realised at both local and national levels.

Preparing for the future

Perhaps the most significant, future-facing achievement in 2014-15 was our successful application to the NHS England Commissioning Support Lead Provider Framework. Not only did we achieve the quality standards required, we outshone our competitors comfortably, giving us great confidence for the future. Our magnificent bid development team were brilliantly supported by subject matter experts from every service line of our business.

The establishment of our NECS Council – a body representative of the breadth and depth of our business charged with informing and advising the executive group of NECS on matters that will effect our strategic direction – was a milestone development, with great cultural significance in 2014/15. This very important step is aimed at fostering greater ownership of our business at every level of our organisation. Collectively (NECS Council, management and executive group), we have been working hard to prepare our people for our ultimate destiny – autonomy. To that end, we have been selected by the Cabinet Office Mutual Programme for dedicated support. We have also defined the characteristics of the organisation we wish to become and we re-affirmed our social purpose.

NECS is now in a fantastic position to exploit the hard work of the last two years and allow our brilliant people to flourish, our customers to feel truly delighted by exceptional service and for NECS to proceed with confidence towards autonomy.

Stephen Childs – Managing Director