Improving commissioning in a time of change

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With reforms to health and social care on the way, policymakers have a unique opportunity to embed and strengthen what we know works, says Felicity Simpkin.

Commissioning health services is a complex task. How it is done, who is responsible for it, and how success is measured has changed many times in recent years. Navigating these changes in an era of long-term disinvestment and local variation in budget and service quality has been a big challenge for those who commission services.

Commissioning is also grappling with the impact of procurement processes that can undermine the success of the very services being delivered. Tendering can be resource intensive and lengthy, distracting from the day-to-day running and development of existing services. At its worst, this disruption can result in inflexibility, stifle innovation and be costly.

While many areas have lengthened contract terms, and are working to align contracts across a system, services for people with multiple and complex needs are also too often siloed, commissioned separately and to separate time-frames.

A new round of national reforms are now underway and the processes used to commission services are under the microscope of policymakers.

The Government has published new plans to reform public procurement, there’s a new White Paper outlining the biggest NHS reorganisation since 2012, and Public Health England is about to be abolished and functions folded into the Department of Health and Social Care (health improvement) and a new UK Health Security Agency (health protection).

The sector is also awaiting the publication of the Dame Carol Black Review of Drugs and a new Government Addiction Strategy. All these processes will have something to say about how services are commissioned and delivered.

Read the full blog post here.

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