Commissioning is based on information. Nearly every diagram that tries to explain the commissioning cycle starts with the word ‘understand’.
But as a commissioner, the last few years have been challenging and here I am sat in 2015 trying to understand the current situation using data that feels ten years old.
Criminal justice data, drug-related offences, waiting times, percentage in effective treatment… this was data all set up by the last government to meet their objectives, which were largely focused on reducing acquisitive crime. It filled an information void which had existed before.
Yet despite the change of government, and the world moving on, the data I receive is not significantly different.
So what do commissioners need to know in 2015? There is a far greater focus now on alcohol, safeguarding, domestic abuse and mental health issues. Emerging new drugs (novel psychoactive substances) are cause for concern, as are the number of individuals presenting for alcohol-related hospital admissions.
This is the type of information I want – rather than the number of offenders triaged within six weeks of referral who start a modality within the month.
Of course we do what we can locally within our own organisations and with our partners to try and acquire this data ourselves, but it is not easy.
My hope is that behind the scenes, Public Health England and other national bodies are working together to develop this data and make it accessible to local areas.
Because only when the understanding is right, can we get commissioning decisions right.