It will be "surprising" if the number of commissioning support units (CSUs) do not reduce in the coming 24 months, it has been predicted.
Professor John Parkes, managing director of the Greater East Midlands (GEM) CSU, said a mixture of mergers, an increasing number of specialist CSUs gaining a larger market share and failing organisations who lose the confidence of their clinical commissioning group (CCG) customers will lead to the cut in CSU numbers.
"I would be very surprised if the number of CSUs stays at 23 during the next two years," he said.
Commenting on Prof Parkes prediction, a spokesperson from the NHS Commissioning Board (NHS CB) said it has "no expectations" other than that the CSUs are in the "best possible shape to become independent organisations".
"We have designed a transition process for CSUs that remains flexible, enabling them to quickly respond to the changing market and their customers' different requirements," said the spokesperson.
"CSUs are on a path to independence and will be operating along commercial lines. The NHS CB will support CSUs through this transition process, helping them adapt and respond within a more competitive environment ahead of their externalisation to become fully independent organisations."