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Report advises GP commissioners how to do the job

Lessons from 10 years of PCT commissioning laid out in NHS Confederation report

Ingrid Torjesen

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

New commissioners are advised to put community and clinical engagement 'front and centre', invest time and effort in establishing constructive relationships with partners, and be ready for rigorous, robust conversations with providers and the public about the quality and shape of local services, by a new report on commissioning.

The NHS Confederation report distils lessons from more than a decade of NHS commissioning for those taking on commissioning responsibilities - both locally and nationally - in the new NHS system. Locally that includes GPs based in clinical commissioning groups.

Ambition, challenge, transition: reflections on a decade of NHS commissioning draws on a series of exclusive interviews with leading figures from in and around primary care trusts (PCTs) to share with leaders of the new commissioning organisations the key lessons learned - sometimes painfully - during the PCT-era. It recommends ways to build on the period's successes and how to avoid the pitfalls PCTs sometimes faced.

Mike Farrar, chief executive of the NHS Confederation, said: "It would be wrong to pretend the past decade has been plain sailing, but it would be equally wrong to think NHS commissioning is starting again from scratch. From when they first took on their full responsibilities in 2002, many PCTs made significant progress in developing the process of health service commissioning, as well as improving the care of their local communities, and managing all the other challenges they faced.

"It is vital that we don't lose this knowledge as we enter the new era of CCG-led local commissioning and national specialised commissioning. April 2013 isn't a blank sheet for new commissioners - they must stand on the shoulders of their predecessors' successes as they plan out the best way of improving services and the health of their populations."

Dr Steve Kell, GP and chair of NHS Bassetlaw Clinical Commissioning Group and co-chair of the NHS Clinical Commissioners’ Leadership Group, a body which represents clinical commissioning groups, said: "Our organisations may be new, but we know we must be conscious of what has come before. As clinicians, and as local commissioners, we recognise the importance of learning from previous commissioning arrangements in an open and constructive way. It is essential we take forward what worked, while learning the right lessons where things were not as effective as they might have been. We must build on the experience and insight from the past to have a strong and effective future."

As well as advice for clinical commissioning groups leaders and others working in commissioning at a local level, the report also contains recommendations for other organisations with new commissioning responsibilities.

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