The government has put together a support network of 14 groups to give primary care trusts a first point of call when seeking external suppliers for services such as data analysis.

The Department of Health has unveiled the establishment of a new agreement – the Framework for procuring External Support for Commissioners – which is comprised of organisations offering a whole host of services to give PCTs quick access to a bank of specialist expertise, although the FESC suppliers will not be directly involved with the delivery of patient care.

Seeking external support for commissioning activities is certainly not a new practice, but the government hopes that the provision of the FESC will allow PCTs to work with organisations that are already known and trusted, removing the need for the search and selection of appropriate partners and the associated drain on resources.

“Of course, it will be up to PCTs to decide if they want to use suppliers within the framework and if they choose to do so, PCTs will remain fully responsible and accountable for managing the services provided,” commented Health Minister Ivan Lewis.

The government noted that FESC will be part of the wider commissioning programme which is due to be developed by the Department of Health later this year.